A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
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AFTER THE CONQUEST
A new era was introduced by the appointment as abbot of Lanfranc's kinsman Paul, (fn. 1) an energetic ruler with the Norman instinct for organization and love of order. He rebuilt the monastery and church with the bricks of the ruined Roman city collected by the former abbot, (fn. 2) and, what was more important from the Norman point of view, converted a careless and ill-regulated convent into a model community. (fn. 3) The Benedictine rule was more strictly enforced with the emendations made by Lanfranc for Bec. Thus the eating of meat was discountenanced; in the infirmary it was seldom allowed, and in the case of monks who were bled a kind of fish pie was substituted for the accustomed meat diet; dress was reformed; silence had to be kept in the church, cloister, frater and dormitory; discipline was enforced in the infirmary; and measures were taken to ensure due attention at the nocturnal services. (fn. 4)
The changes were introduced gradually, so as not to excite rebellion, probably until Paul, by making a dark and strong dungeon, (fn. 5) had the means to coerce the refractory. The nuns—for, as already stated, St. Albans was a double monastery—were confined by him to the almonry and its neighbourhood, and regulations were made for them as to clothing, food, exercise, observance of silence and attendance at divine worship. (fn. 6)
A lover of learning, Paul founded a scriptorium at the abbey, in which books could be made for the convent. (fn. 7) This was a beginning, perhaps, of that great school of history on whose works we largely depend for our knowledge of the 12th and 13th centuries. It was endowed with tithes in Hatfield, given by a Norman noble for this purpose, and others in Redbourn; while for greater convenience the abbot arranged that the almoner and cellarer should provide daily food for the copyists whom he brought from abroad. Not the least of his benefactions to the church were the twentyeight volumes, besides service books of all kinds, which he presented. (fn. 8)
At the back of Paul almost throughout his abbacy was Lanfranc, the value of whose support can perhaps hardly be overestimated. To the archbishop the abbey undoubtedly owed the Conqueror's two charters, (fn. 9) one granting to St. Albans sac and soc, tol and team, and all customs that Stigand (fn. 10) had in Edward the Confessor's time, the other ordering that the abbot and convent should have all the lands, churches and tithes of which they could prove seisin at the time that William became king. The second must have facilitated the recovery by Paul of the abbey's lost possessions. The restoration of Redbourn by Lanfranc was almost a matter of course, (fn. 11) but Childwick, 'Cnicumba,' (fn. 12) the land at Napsbury, Eywood and 'Tiwa' were also regained. (fn. 13)
The respect which the abbey at this time inspired is seen in the many donations made to it, (fn. 14) and in the foundation and endowment of cells of St. Albans at Hertford by Robert de Limesi, Wallingford (co. Berks.) by Robert Doyley, (fn. 15) Belvoir (co. Lincoln) by Robert de Todeni, Tynemouth (co. Northumb.) by Robert Mowbray, and Binham (co. Norfolk) (fn. 16) by Peter de Valognes. It had become famed far and wide for its strict observance of the rule. (fn. 17) If the result excites admiration, some pity cannot but be felt for the English monks during the process. The path of reform must have been doubly hard for men under the rule of an alien with little sympathy for the conquered race. Abbot Paul destroyed the tombs of his predecessors, whom he habitually spoke of as fools and blockheads, and although his scorn was probably for their lack of rule, he conveyed the impression that it was largely for their nationality. (fn. 18) His neglect in one instance to show a little friendly courtesy to a landholder because he was English is said to have cost St. Albans an estate which was secured by Ramsey. (fn. 19)
After Paul's death in November 1093 St. Albans remained without an abbot for more than three years, that its property might be wasted by the king. (fn. 20) Within the abbey itself there seems to have been a struggle for mastery between the English and Norman sections of the convent; but all hopes of the former for predominance were crushed by the appointment of a second Norman Superior. (fn. 21) Richard de Albini, the new abbot, was apparently well chosen. Of noble birth, he made good use of the opportunities arising from the circumstance to benefit his house. William Rufus is said to have been on friendly terms with him, (fn. 22) as was Henry I, who showed marked favour to the abbey in his time. This king wore his crown here one Whitsuntide (fn. 23); on another visit to the monastery in 1104 he granted to the abbey an annual fair to last eight days. (fn. 24) He also kept Christmas here in 1115, (fn. 25) and was present three days later with his queen and son at the dedication of the conventual church (fn. 26) by Robert Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 27) and gave to the monastery Biscott in the soke of Luton. (fn. 28) During Richard's abbacy the abbey received numerous gifts, among its special benefactors being William de Albini, the king's butler, and Henry de Albini with his brothers Nigel and William. (fn. 29) In some of the transactions with regard to the property of the abbey which appeared to be disadvantageous to the house Abbot Richard was believed to have furthered his relatives' interests at the abbey's expense, and one grant was made against the will of the whole convent. (fn. 30) Yet his motives may have been wrongly suspected. It is not impossible that the surrender of Tewin (fn. 31) was the price paid for William Rufus's amity, and that of Sarratt (fn. 32) to Peter, butler of William Count of Mortain, a return for services rendered to the abbey. Richard is said to have first subjected St. Albans to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lincoln that he might control his monks more strictly, (fn. 33) but how far the statement can be accepted is doubtful. (fn. 34) Possibly he maintained unusually close relations with the bishop in the interests of discipline. The high repute of the abbey was at any rate maintained under him. That is evident from the profession here of Robert Mowbray Earl of Northumberland, (fn. 35) the choice of Bernard, one of the convent, in 1202-3 to be Abbot of Ramsey, (fn. 36) and the subjection of the priories of Wymondham and Hatfield Peverel to St. Albans (fn. 37) by their founders, William de Albini and William Peverel. The abbot, whose withered arm had been miraculously restored at the translation of St. Cuthbert, built a chapel in honour of the saint at St. Albans. (fn. 38) His gifts to the church included two shrines, one adorned with golden images, several precious vestments and a missal used for early mass. (fn. 39)
Richard died in 1119, and Geoffrey de Gorham became abbot by the monks' unanimous choice. (fn. 40) He was a native of Maine, who had been summoned over by Abbot Richard to take charge of the school at St. Albans (fn. 41); but when he arrived the post was already filled, so he retired to Dunstable to wait for the next vacancy. While there he borrowed from the abbey some choral copes for a performance of the miracle play of St. Katharine, (fn. 42) and a fire breaking out in his house they were destroyed. The accident determined Geoffrey's career. In place of the lost vestments he made an offering of himself to God and took monastic vows at St. Albans. (fn. 43) His course as abbot befitted the circumstances of his profession. A very real devotion was expressed not only in gifts to the church of ornaments and vestments, many and costly as these were, (fn. 44) but in all his actions.
There was great activity at the abbey at this time. A guest-hall, apartments for the queen, the infirmary and its chapel were built. (fn. 45) An elaborate shrine was begun in 1123, (fn. 46) and on 2 August 1129 the body of St. Alban was translated in the presence of four abbots besides Geoffrey, and of Alexander Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 47) who gave an indulgence of forty days to all visiting the abbey on the feasts of the Invention or Translation. (fn. 48)
The hospital of St. Julian for lepers was founded and endowed by the abbot from a laudable desire to atone for omissions of prayers and alms due from the abbey for its benefactors. (fn. 49)
Probably a similar motive caused the establishment of the nunnery at Sopwell, (fn. 50) and this priory, always closely connected with St. Albans, was intended to compensate for the removal from the abbey of the sisterhood, to which there is no reference after Abbot Paul's time. By the Gesta Geoffrey is credited also with the foundation of Markyate Priory, but with how much truth is doubtful, (fn. 51) though it is unnecessary to reject entirely the story of the abbot's friendship for the saintly recluse Christina, and their benefits to each other. (fn. 52) Geoffrey was concerned, too, with the formation of the convent at Beaulieu, which became a cell of the abbey. (fn. 53)
No relaxation of the rule was permitted at St. Albans under this abbot. (fn. 54) He insisted on silence at meals in the infirmary, on abstinence from meat unless such food was needful for health, and on the return to the cloister of the monks as soon as they had recovered from illness. Yet he was anything but a hard man. It was he who assigned the church of St. Peter to the infirmarer to provide necessaries for the sick and old; by him, too, the sums allotted for the convent's food and for alms were increased. (fn. 55) He was moreover very charitable. (fn. 56) During a famine (fn. 57) he had the partly completed shrine stripped of its precious covering to obtain means to feed the poor. (fn. 58)
Such information as there is about the monks is all favourable to them. The shrine was made by an inmate of the house, Anketil, at one time moneyer to the King of Denmark. (fn. 59) Walter Abbot of Eynsham, present at the Translation in 1129, was an ex-prior of St. Albans (fn. 60); and another prior, Godfrey, was made Abbot of Crowland by the Council of Westminster in 1138. (fn. 61) It is specially noted that the foundation of St. Julian's had the approval of the whole community.
Geoffrey was succeeded in 1146 by Ralph Gubiun, whose election received the assent of the king when visiting the abbey on Ascension Day. (fn. 62) Ralph had been chaplain and treasurer to Alexander Bishop of Lincoln, with whom he had remained even after he had become a monk. The bishop had promised to make him abbot (fn. 63) and possibly directed the convent's choice. A consciousness that the election had not been quite free would certainly explain the abbot's extreme uneasiness at finding an uncut seal on Anketil's table. Suspecting the prior of a plot to depose him, he removed him from office, and drove him at last to seek refuge from persecution with the Abbot of Westminster. (fn. 64) He is said to have protected his church manfully, (fn. 65) possibly a reference to some special occasion for his journey to France to obtain from Pope Eugenius III a bull similar to that of Celes tine II. (fn. 66) His principal acts besides were the institution of a weekly procession in honour of the Virgin Mary, the building of rooms for the abbot near the church, and the purchase of Bramfield. (fn. 67) He left the abbey clear of all debt, but he had taken the silver-gilt plates of the shrine to pay for the new estate. (fn. 68) In 1150 he was attacked by an incurable disease, and it was apparently by his own wish that he was superseded. (fn. 69) By permission of King Stephen, who came again to St. Albans in 1151, the monks exercised their right to elect, and chose the prior, Robert de Gorham, (fn. 70) who received the benediction nineteen days before Ralph's death. (fn. 71)
Robert de Gorham was the nephew of Abbot Geoffrey, in whose time he had transferred himself from a continental monastery to St. Albans. Here he had become secretary, and in 1149 prior. (fn. 72) He made a clever, politic abbot, devoting all his powers to the aggrandisement of his house and working indefatigably for its material advancement. Early in his abbacy he took the opportunity afforded by the confusion of ownerships and overlordships under Stephen to acquire the church of Luton, with its endowment of land in 'Hertevelle,' Battlesden and Potsgrove. (fn. 73)
A prolonged struggle with Robert de Valognes (fn. 74) arose from the abbot's decision to put beyond doubt the abbey's proprietary rights in Northaw Wood, endangered by the life grants of his predecessors to various members of the Valognes family.
In both these cases the abbot was victorious, (fn. 77) but in the dispute with Westminster Abbey over Aldenham (fn. 78) he met his match. Laurence, then Abbot of Westminster, had formerly been a monk of St. Albans, (fn. 79) and on succeeding to the abbacy had been very kindly treated by Abbot Robert. Expectations, however, that he would be bound by past ties were doomed to disappointment. He was as uncompromising and unscrupulous in support of his own house as his opponent, over whom he carried the day.
Of all Robert de Gorham's struggles that with the Bishop of Lincoln was incomparably the most important. The abbot, sent with other ecclesiastics to Rome by Henry II on the king's business, seized the opportunity to secure the abbey's independence. (fn. 80) The occasion was propitious. Pope Adrian IV, a native of Abbots Langley, had reason to be interested in St. Albans, (fn. 81) and was generous with gifts (fn. 82) and privileges. (fn. 83) By him an annual procession of clerks and laymen of the county to St. Albans was ordained, the abbey and its cells declared exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lincoln, and the abbot authorized to wear the mitre and other pontifical ornaments. The bishop, after remonstrance, agreed to the procession, (fn. 84) but the abbey's exemption he refused to recognize, and when Pope Adrian was dead (fn. 85) contested the point. (fn. 86) The abbot is said to have convinced the king that Adrian had not given but restored freedom to St. Albans, though it seems probable that no exemption existed before this date. (fn. 87) However, as the submission of the house to the see of Lincoln at any rate at one period (fn. 88) was an undeniable fact, Robert came to an agreement with the bishop, and in March 1163 made over to him the manor of Fingest (co. Bucks.) (fn. 89) in return for a renunciation of all episcopal rights over the monastery. (fn. 90)
St. Albans was recognized as first among the English abbeys at the Council of Tours in 1163. (fn. 91)
In his relations with his monks Robert managed to combine a kindly ease in ordinary intercourse with a somewhat severe dignity in chapter. (fn. 92) He is said never to have refused alms to the poor. He left the abbey 600 marks in debt, (fn. 93) and this is hardly surprising, considering the expenditure necessitated by suits and processes, (fn. 94) a considerable amount of building (fn. 95) and the work on the shrine destroyed by his predecessors. (fn. 96)
The assent of the king to the election of another abbot was withheld for more than four months. (fn. 97) Then out of three monks selected by the convent he chose Simon, the prior, who received the benediction from the Bishop of London 20 May 1167. (fn. 98) Simon loved learning and was anxious to encourage it in the cloister. The increase of the library was therefore his particular care. (fn. 99) He not only repaired and reformed the scriptorium, (fn. 100) but kept two or three picked writers at work in his own room, (fn. 101) and had an aumbry or cupboard made in which books could be kept. (fn. 102)
It is related that he was an intimate friend and admirer of Archbishop Thomas, and earned his grateful thanks by interceding on his behalf with the young king at great personal risk. (fn. 103) The archbishop's murder seems to have turned the abbot's thoughts to their own martyr, for his work on the magnificent outer shrine of St. Alban is said to date from that time. (fn. 104) Prudence perhaps would have suggested its postponement until finances had recovered from the strain of Abbot Robert's expenses. The convent incurred obligations which it had great difficulty in discharging. Aaron the Jew, indeed, told the monks to their faces that St. Alban owed his shrine to him. (fn. 105) Yet whatever they suffered in their endeavours to honour the saint must have appeared rewarded by the discovery in 1178 of the relics of St. Amphibalus, the instructor of St. Alban in the Christian faith. (fn. 106) An inhabitant of the town, a devout worshipper of St. Alban, was led one night by the saint himself to Redbourn and shown where St. Amphibalus and his companions lay buried. The abbot was told, and excavations were made at the place indicated, with the result that the holy remains were found. As the relics were on their way to the monastery, they were met by a procession of monks bearing the shrine of St. Alban, who testified by miracles his joy at the encounter.
When Simon died the choice of the whole convent, with one exception, fell upon a Cambridgeshire monk called Warin. (fn. 107) The dissentient (fn. 108) objected on the ground that Warin was almost blind, and that the burgher stock of which he came cared only for money, and prophesied that he would oppress the brothers. (fn. 109) The objector's judgement was perhaps better than his motives. The abbot helped a horde of relatives at the monastery's expense. (fn. 110) He was very self-willed, and his brother, whom he soon made prior, very suspicious. (fn. 111) The result was that the older monks were slighted in favour of the younger, and opposition of any kind was treated as rebellion and punished by banishment to the more distant cells. (fn. 112) The example given of the abbot's obstinacy is his foundation of the hospital of St. Mary de Pré without regard to remonstrances. (fn. 113) It is easy to see the convent's objection to impoverishing their own house to endow another. On the other hand, to the abbot, who believed he was acting in their best interests, they may well have appeared factious. Apart from the obedience due to the vision commanding honour to be paid to the place where the relics of St. Amphibalus and St. Alban had met, expediency urged the commemoration of the miracles which had there attested the genuineness of the remains inclosed in St. Alban's shrine: for on this point there had certainly been uneasiness. (fn. 114)
Warin's mitigation of the severity of the rule was no doubt popular. Services were shortened (fn. 115); on fast days the monks were allowed to sleep after dinner (fn. 116); those who had been bled were excused attendance at certain services (fn. 117); the eating of meat was no longer so restricted (fn. 118); Redbourn was made a health resort where the routine of the cloister could be relaxed for a short time. (fn. 119) One or two alterations were made in dress for greater decorum: henceforth monks were not to serve at dinner without their frocks when seculars were present (fn. 120); as soon as novices had received the tonsure they were to wear the monastic habit (fn. 121); boots were to be worn instead of shoes, the fastenings of which caused inconvenience. (fn. 122)
Warin was zealous in maintaining the abbey's liberties. When Walter de Coutances, as Bishop of Lincoln (1183-6), would have called the monastery's exemption in question, the abbot appealed to the king and thus stopped the discussion. (fn. 123) For better assurance he procured in 1188 a confirmation of the pact with Lincoln from Clement III and other bulls concerning the abbey's freedom. (fn. 124) Warin seems to have made a point of ingratiating himself with King Richard and the queen mother (fn. 125) and succeeded, (fn. 126) though not without expense. John de Cella, the Prior of Wallingford, who succeeded him in 1195, was a learned (fn. 127) and devout man, but he had little capacity for temporal affairs which he committed largely to others. (fn. 128) Possibly his unlucky experiences in building induced this course. Warin had left 100 marks (fn. 129) to renew the front of the church, which was accordingly pulled down. But misfortune seemed to dog the work. (fn. 130) The builder first put in charge proved untrustworthy, and when one of the brothers was given the superintendence and a portion of the monastery's income was set apart for the work, the rate of progress was still very disappointing. The rebuilding of the refectory was not attended by so much difficulty and was finished in John's abbacy; and a new dormitory (fn. 131) was also begun.
A great deal of trouble was caused to the abbey at this time by Robert Fitz Walter. As the husband of Gunnora de Valognes he revived the Valognes' claim to Northaw Wood and persuaded a discontented and unscrupulous monk, William Pygun by name, to attach the conventual seal to a forged charter in his favour. (fn. 132) The abbot's desire to hush up the matter saved Pygun from any punishment but transference to Tynemouth Priory, (fn. 133) and perhaps operated to the benefit of Fitz Walter, who received Biscott in return for Northaw. Later there was a quarrel over Binham Priory, a Valognes foundation, (fn. 134) and Fitz Walter is said to have relied again on a forged document. Failing in his lawsuit, he tried to take possession of the priory by force, but the king sent to its relief. For John's help the abbot and convent had to thank his hatred of Fitz Walter. They had personally little reason to be grateful to him. At the beginning of his reign, it is true, he had shown them favour: on 28 May 1199, the day after his coronation, he visited St. Albans and made offerings (fn. 135); in June he confirmed his father's charter of liberties (fn. 136); in August he granted them, moreover, a weekly market in Barnet. (fn. 137) They were not excepted, however, from the bad treatment meted out to the religious generally during the Interdict. On 29 March 1208 the custody of the house was committed to a clerk named Robert de London, (fn. 138) who appointed his own doorkeeper and cellarer and made his hand so much felt that the abbot paid 600 marks to be free of him. (fn. 139) In the same year the king by Richard Marsh demanded an aid of 500 marks, which the abbot dared not refuse. (fn. 140)
The abbot fell ill in 1214, and, knowing his end was near, had himself helped into the chapter-house, where he begged the convent's pardon for his offences and insisted on receiving discipline from all. When he had bidden them farewell, he was carried to his room, and there he died three days later, as he had predicted from his symptoms. (fn. 141) Good and pious (fn. 142) as he undoubtedly was, he was perhaps not an ideal abbot. He seems to have depended too much on advisers, who were not always well chosen. Roger de Hertfort, John de Seldford and Alexander de Langley were flatterers and mischief-makers, and by their means, sometimes without the abbot's knowledge, monks who had committed no fault were removed from St. Albans to the cells and from one cell to another. (fn. 143) Sometimes, of course, the banished had only themselves to blame for their sentence. When Walter de Standune, Almaric and others accused the abbot to the papal legate of buying land for a kinsman with the church's money, (fn. 144) they must have known it meant his removal (fn. 145) or theirs.
When Abbot John was on his death-bed Alexander de Langley joined Walter de Rheims and William de Trumpington in begging him to seal a charter prohibiting such transference at the abbot's will. The dying man, unable to speak, refused by a sign, but notwithstanding the keeper of his seal, Alexander de Appelton, sealed the deed. (fn. 146)
After a vacancy of four months William de Trumpington was elected, partly through outside influence. (fn. 147) A complete contrast to his predecessor, William found his sphere in the active not the contemplative life. His strength lay in governing and organizing. Of a buoyant disposition, he was undaunted by any misfortunes and equal to all emergencies. During the war the abbot needed all his strength of nerve. His refusal to do homage to Louis was met by a threat to burn the town and abbey, and destruction was only averted by a money payment. (fn. 148) The immunity purchased from one side was the incentive to attack by the other. Falkes de Breauté swooped down on St. Albans on 22 January 1217, and after ill-treating and robbing the inhabitants, demanded £100 as ransom of town and monastery. (fn. 149) On 30 April the abbey was in danger from French mercenaries, (fn. 150) but again escaped, though it was swept bare of all stores. The anxieties of the abbot may be measured to some extent by the losses of his house, which were estimated at £2,555. (fn. 151) Meanwhile a trial of strength had been going on in the abbey itself. Those responsible for William's election soon repented their choice, (fn. 152) in some instances no doubt because hopes of their own predominance were disappointed. His constant association with laymen gave offence, and he was twice reproved in chapter for his conduct and for breaches of the charter he had made. The first time he promised amendment, (fn. 153) but when accused the second time (fn. 154) he threw himself into a violent rage and said that in making the charter he had not known what he was doing (fn. 155) and that he did not mean to be bound. (fn. 156) The excitement was so great that he agreed to consider the question, but evidently only to gain time. By his secret request the papal legate (fn. 157) came to the abbey and asked to see the charter. When he had read it he tore it to pieces, afterwards telling the abbot to send for him if he had any more trouble. William, now supreme, disposed of the leaders of the opposition. Raymond, the prior, of whom he was probably jealous and afraid, (fn. 158) he banished to Tynemouth; he also exiled Almaric, Walter de Standune and John de Seldford, (fn. 159) and rid himself of Alexander de Langley by promotion. (fn. 160)
When the abbot had ensured his position he showed himself in a different and better light. The conclusion of wars internal and external was followed by a visitation of the cells. (fn. 161) At three out of eight priories, Belvoir, Wymondham and Hatfield, the priors were unsatisfactory. The abbot confined himself at first to admonition, but as the delinquents did not amend he removed them. (fn. 162)
In 1218 the abbot obtained from Honorius III papal protection for the monastery, its property and cells, and confirmation of all the privileges of St. Albans. (fn. 163) The next year he brought about a settlement of certain disputed points with the Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 164) particularly in relation to the cells of Belvoir, Hertford and Beaulieu. (fn. 165) An agreement of a similar kind was made in 1228 with the Bishop of Norwich as to the priories of Wymondham and Binham. (fn. 166) When circumstances permitted, William turned his attention to the improvement of the fabric and ornaments. Here much was done. (fn. 167) The dormitory was finished, part of the church roofed, the tower heightened and repaired, (fn. 168) cloisters were made on the south side, altars to St. Mary and St. Wulfstan constructed, the chapel of St. Cuthbert rebuilt, and the west front at last completed. (fn. 169) All this necessitated heavy expenditure. In 1229 the king's protection was given, apparently in May when Henry was at the abbey, (fn. 170) to those sent from St. Albans to collect money for the repairs by preaching and begging, (fn. 171) and in October royal letters were directed on the abbot's behalf to his men for help to pay his debts. (fn. 172) For decorative work William had an artist at hand in Walter de Colchester, the sacrist, an accomplished sculptor and painter (fn. 173) who had already given proof of his ability in John de Cella's time. (fn. 174) His fame was not limited to St. Albans, for he was employed at Canterbury on the shrine of St. Thomas. (fn. 175) Walter established a school of painting at St. Albans, which flourished for a century. (fn. 176) The abbot was punctilious in the performance of his religious duties, and wellinformed on all matters relating to divine service. (fn. 177) The changes he introduced testify to his love of beauty and order in religious observances. He ordained a daily mass of St. Mary 'cum nota' (fn. 178) for which he made careful arrangements (fn. 179); he added several lights (fn. 180); and appointed that the daily private service of All Saints should be said in the quire, and not interrupted by processions. (fn. 181)
His recorded acts of administration were very sensible. Thus he purchased a hostel in London for lodging himself and his monks when necessary, (fn. 182) and a house at Yarmouth for storage of fish bought as occasion offered. (fn. 183)
If William de Trumpington was not without faults, he was a commendable and exceedingly able abbot, probably the best that the monastery could have had at that time, when it needed a strong rule. Whatever may have been the feeling towards him at the beginning of his abbacy, he succeeded in gaining the approbation and affection of his convent and was much lamented at his death. (fn. 184)
The royal licence to elect was asked and given immediately, (fn. 185) and at the same time the monks negotiated successfully for the custody of the house while vacant. (fn. 186) John Prior of Hertford was chosen, most unexpectedly to himself. (fn. 187) His was the first election since the Council of Lateran had enjoined that exempt abbots must be confirmed by the pope, but as John was elderly and not strong, proctors were sent in his place. (fn. 188) Reinforced by letters of the king and his friends, their request was granted. The Bishop of London blessed the abbot, who made profession of obedience to the pope, to find that unwittingly he had bound himself to go every three years in person or by proxy to Rome. 'What should I do there?' asked the abbot; 'Make offerings, my friend,' answered the bishop. (fn. 189) St. Albans, in fact, at one time might have existed for little else. The demands of the pope never ceased. Two Franciscans visited the abbey as papal collectors in 1247, (fn. 190) and in the same year the pope required a contribution for the Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 191) In 1254 the Bishop of Norwich came to St. Albans to take the tenth granted by the pope to the king for three years. (fn. 192) The Bishop of Hereford, Henry's agent at Rome, pledged the convent's credit for 500 marks on the pope's behalf, (fn. 193) and on 9 April 1256 papal letters were sent to them to pay the money to certain merchants within a month. (fn. 194) Failing to discharge their obligation, they were placed under an interdict for fifteen days, (fn. 195) and of course did what they were ordered. Any treatment was considered good enough for them: the monks sent to do honour to the Archbishop of Messina, the pope's envoy, in 1257 were virtually imprisoned in his house until they paid what he wanted. (fn. 196)
The monastery was also burdened through papal provisions. St. Peter's near St. Albans was claimed in 1252 by a papal nominee, but the church was proved to be appropriated and therefore not available. (fn. 197) The struggle over Hartburn Church (fn. 198) (co. Northumberland) was not so easily determined, since the appropriation had been obtained only just before the rector's death. The case was taken to Rome, and though the abbot and convent gained their point, they had to pay the claimant 25 marks a year until they should give him a living worth 80 marks. (fn. 199)
Still the proctors of St. Albans reaped some advantage from their stay at the papal court. They secured the appropriation of the churches of Wingrave (co. Bucks.) and Coniscliffe (co. Durham) (fn. 200) and many privileges, (fn. 201) besides indulgences for the benefit of their monastery.
With the pope's example before him, it is not surprising that Henry III, devout worshipper of St. Alban as he was, should have tried to exploit the house for his own ends. In his less important attempts he was successful, (fn. 202) but when in 1258 he asked the abbot and convent to be surety for him for a large sum, they sheltered themselves behind the bull of prohibition of Pope Clement III, (fn. 203) and could not be moved from their position. (fn. 204)
The abbot had a hard task to resist the many and varied encroachments on the monastery's rights. Early in his abbacy he was harassed by Ralph de Chenduit, (fn. 205) who set him at defiance and laughed at his sentence of excommunication. (fn. 206) For years, too, he had contentions over right to free warren with the tenants of St. Albans, (fn. 207) particularly with Geoffrey de Childwick, who, strong in influence at court, hunted in the abbot's lands and maltreated his servants with impunity. (fn. 208) At last the abbot and convent had to abandon the hopeless struggle and make peace with him. (fn. 209) Geoffrey and Ralph had cost them 2,000 marks. (fn. 210)
In 1249 there was another contest with Westminster Abbey over Aldenham, which was not settled until 1256. (fn. 211)
A stand had also to be taken more than once for the abbey's privileges. The justices in 1254 summoned the men of the St. Albans jurisdiction outside the liberty, and imposed a fine of £100 for non-attendance, but the abbot brought his cause before the King's Council and the judgement was reversed. (fn. 212) The point at issue between the abbot and the Bishop of Durham in 1248 and 1256-8 (fn. 213) seems to have been of this kind. Archbishop Boniface in 1258 had to be reminded that the abbey was not subject to Lincoln. (fn. 214)
Of the convent at this time little but praise is recorded. The choice in 1247 of one of the monks, the celebrated Matthew Paris, to reform and instruct in the Benedictine rule the monastery of St. Benet Holm, Norway, (fn. 215) is testimony of the widespread relations and high reputation of St. Albans. (fn. 216)
At the end of October 1251 a visitation of the abbey was made by the Prior of Hurley and the Sub-prior of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, who, after a careful inquiry lasting four days, found nothing amiss. (fn. 217) The replies of the abbot and convent on the subject of the reformed Benedictine statutes in 1253 give the same good impression. (fn. 218)
Artistic and literary activity here was at its highest point in the abbacies of William de Trumpington and John de Hertford. Walter de Colchester died in 1248, (fn. 219) but seems to have had a worthy successor in his nephew Richard the Painter, (fn. 220) who in 1250 already had a long list of works to his credit. (fn. 221) Master Simon, Richard's father, (fn. 222) also painted at St. Albans, and there is mention of another painter here, Alan, a lay brother. (fn. 223)
The house was strong on the literary side during this period. Roger of Wendover, the Prior of Belvoir recalled to the abbey by Abbot William, (fn. 224) found there occupation better suited to his gifts in the compilation of a chronicle. (fn. 225) When he died in 1236 his place as historiographer was taken by Matthew Paris, who continued the Chronica Majora and wrote also the Historia Anglorum. Matthew was the author too of the Vitae Abbatum S. Albani and several other works. (fn. 226)
To a man endowed with the faculty to observe and record, life at St. Albans afforded great opportunities. Visitors of all kinds came to the abbey, mendicant friars, for whom special quarters were set apart, (fn. 227) strangers from the East, (fn. 228) princes and kings, (fn. 229) some to remain a night or two, others, like the dispossessed Bishop of Ardfert, to stay for years. (fn. 230)
Abbot John's principal work in building, it may be noted, was a beautiful guest-hall, (fn. 231) and he devoted the revenues of Hartburn Church to the increase of hospitality, (fn. 232) in the exercise of which he seems to have shone. It was his easy munificence as much as his goodness that made St. Albans attractive in his time as a training school for young nobles. (fn. 233) He spent no doubt on his house (fn. 234) what so many of his predecessors had lavished on their kinsfolk. (fn. 235)
At John de Hertford's death in April 1263 the king again sold the vacancy to the convent, but doubled the price. (fn. 236) The papal confirmation of the election of Roger de Norton cost at least £800. (fn. 237) The dominant note of Roger's administration seems to have been diplomatic prudence. He could bow to circumstances and yield a point, if by so doing he gained on the whole. Thus his agreement in September 1264 with the Countess of Arundel as to the advowson of Wymondham Priory (fn. 238) and his arrangement with John Fitz John about Horwood Chase (co. Bucks.) (fn. 239) were both in the nature of a compromise. His complaisance to Robert de Pynkeney in 1279 over the presentation to Datchet Church, (fn. 240) and the purchase from the Earl of Hereford in 1285 of a dubious claim to the advowson of Hatfield Peverel Priory, (fn. 241) were prompted by the like discretion.
Relations between the abbot and convent and Archbishop Kilwardby were very much strained on one occasion through the refusal of the St. Albans proctors on the archbishop's demand to show evidence of appropriations of churches. (fn. 242) The abbot, however, invited the archbishop to St. Albans at a convenient opportunity, received him with great ceremony, and explaining how the abbey stood, completely mollified him. (fn. 243) While in the North on a visitation of Tynemouth in 1278 he was as successful with the Bishop of Durham. (fn. 244)
In company with the other exempt clergy, Roger ignored Archbishop Peckham's summons to a council at Lambeth in October 1281. When sequestration followed he appealed, but eventually, like the majority, compromised to save expenses. (fn. 245) It is in Roger's time that the abbey first had difficulties with its subjects, the townsmen in 1274 challenging the abbot's right to multure by setting up mills of their own. (fn. 246) The law was against them, and in 1275-6 they made submission to the abbot, who received their peace-offering graciously and made some concessions. (fn. 247) While the quarrel was at its height the queen came to St. Albans, and the abbot tried to get her into the monastery by a little used way so as to avoid the people who were waiting to lay their grievances before her. The move, however, was discovered by the townspeople in time, and the abbot had to excuse himself as best he could to Eleanor, who much resented the attempted trickery. (fn. 248)
Less is now heard of royal and papal extortion. But the abbot and convent were treated with flagrant injustice by King Henry in 1265, when they performed their knight service, and were made to pay a heavy commutation fine as well. (fn. 249)
A painful sensation must have been caused by the discovery of the frauds perpetrated by the abbot's two chaplains. (fn. 250) To all appearance irreproachable, they took advantage of the trust reposed in them to seal charters and contract loans without the convent's knowledge, and finally absconded with ornaments and treasure. Greater carefulness on the abbot's part might perhaps have prevented this and other losses: for instance, the unnecessary expense and trouble caused by mislaying the deeds of Stanmore Manor which had been recovered by John de Hertford. (fn. 251) The large corrody given in return for Pinchfield Manor (fn. 252) may have been justifiable, but it would be difficult to defend the grants of corrodies to his kinsfolk in his last illness. (fn. 253) Yet the convent might consider itself on the whole fortunate in Roger, for he was a man of good life, religious and literary, and left the house scarcely 100 marks in debt. (fn. 254) Under him the abbot's apartments and the infirmary were rebuilt (fn. 255) and three bells made, St. Amphibalus, St. Alban and St. Katharine. His own gifts besides contributions to these works consisted of 17 choral copes, 5 chasubles and several books. (fn. 256) Before his death, which occurred 3 November 1290, (fn. 257) the prior John Maryns approached the king (fn. 258) about the vacancy, but to no purpose. The convent's worst fears of the escheator's rapacity were realized. (fn. 259)
When the new abbot John de Berkhampstead returned from the papal court he found the abbey so impoverished that he was unable to discharge the obligations contracted in Rome at the terms fixed. (fn. 260) His benediction had been delayed through a grievance of the Friars Minors against his predecessor. (fn. 261) For the moment restitution of temporalities, too, seemed likely to be deferred owing to a defect in the seal of the bull of confirmation. (fn. 262) However, the abbot was at last installed on 22 June 1291, and gave a splendid feast. (fn. 263)
In November 1292, apparently at the suggestion of the Prior and convent of Tynemouth, the king laid claim to the advowson of that priory, of which he said he had been wrongly deprived. (fn. 264) The abbot wisely decided to submit to Edward's favour, and in May 1293 received a grant of the advowson in perpetuity. (fn. 265) Probably John was at that time unaware of the part played by the prior, for he made no move until two or three years later. Then he effected a sudden and secret entrance into Tynemouth with an armed force, seized the prior and several of the convent and sent them in fetters to St. Albans, on the ground that they had intended to revolt. (fn. 266) The abbot had also difficulty, though of a different kind, over Wymondham Priory. Sir Robert de Tateshall, out of revenge for the withdrawal of a livery, (fn. 267) twice prevented him holding a visitation here. (fn. 268) Possibly the abbot lacked tact. It seems at least that a little pliability would have saved him these affronts and the unpleasantness with Archbishop Winchelsey. (fn. 269)
On the financial side the abbot had many anxieties. He began his rule in pecuniary embarrassment, and taxation at this time was very heavy. The bull clericis laicos made matters, of course, no easier: the abbot still paid a subsidy to the king, and had to endure also cessation of all services at the abbey until he could buy papal absolution. (fn. 272) In 1300 he was disturbed by the pope's demand for 1,000 marks (fn. 273) deposited in the abbey by the papal collectors and borrowed in 1286 by the king. (fn. 274) The abbey had to find the money, (fn. 275) but over this transaction it did not make a bad bargain. The king on 20 July 1301 confirmed their charters, (fn. 276) and granted that the prior and convent should have the custody of the house at every vacancy for 1,000 marks (fn. 277); he, moreover, remitted all their debts to him. (fn. 278)
The abbot's shortcomings appear to have been the result of financial straits. He sold much wood and burdened the house with pensions and liveries. (fn. 279) Though kind and affable, he was hated by many because he removed the priors of cells for very slight reasons after he had received large sums of money from them. He was religious, too, yet he made no provision for masses for his soul and deprived the convent of the manor of Childwick, given to them by Abbot Roger to keep his anniversary. (fn. 280) He died, worn out by cares, in October 1301. (fn. 281)
The electors' choice of the prior, John de Maryns, (fn. 282) pleased everybody but Richard de Hatford, Prior of Redbourn, who baulked in his own ambition tried to get the Archbishop of Canterbury to interfere, but only drew reproof upon himself. (fn. 283) Maryns received the papal confirmation on 25 May, (fn. 284) and celebrated the inauguration of his abbacy with a splendid feast at which two abbots and thirteen knights were present. (fn. 285) His first work was to settle outstanding quarrels and grievances. He appeased the archbishop, (fn. 286) and conciliated Tateshall by a grant of the livery he wanted. (fn. 287) The manor of Childwick was restored by him to the convent, (fn. 288) and on 18 October 1302 he removed another cause of discontent by fixing the amount of bread and ale which the abbot could require from the refectorer. (fn. 289)
On the death of the Prior of Wymondham in 1303 the abbot successfully asserted the exemption of the cells from the escheator's authority. (fn. 290) He also guarded the abbey's liberties in Buckinghamshire against the sheriff. (fn. 291)
Maryns apparently found it no easier than his predecessor to reduce the financial affairs of the house to order. The expenses at the papal court were very heavy, over £1,700, (fn. 292) and if the fine of 1,000 marks was paid to the king in June 1303, (fn. 293) it was only done by borrowing. (fn. 294) St. Albans was at any rate so much in debt in April 1305 that its custody was committed by the king to William de Bolum, who held it until December 1306. (fn. 295) Even then it was not free from difficulties. Only a few months later Walter Langton, Bishop of Lichfield, the king's treasurer, was endeavouring to get from the abbey an annual pension of £30 for three lives in return for his loan of £900. (fn. 296) One of the brothers pointed out to the abbot that to pay debts thus was not only uneconomical but dangerous, as it would lead to similar demands from the king and others. Maryns faced by a present peril would not listen, and in the bishop's presence enjoined the convent to grant the annuity. But as the monks were most disinclined to acquiesce, the business was prorogued, (fn. 297) and before further pressure could be used Edward I died and Langton's fall followed immediately. The relief, of course, was only comparative, for the money had still to be repaid. (fn. 298) Maryns's neglect to supply two carts on the new king's demand seems to have been a mistake. Edward was so much annoyed (fn. 299) that the abbot, to placate him, after sending a peaceoffering of money, (fn. 300) made him a present of his wood at Langley. (fn. 301) Maryns was unable to fulfil his intention of putting the temporal affairs of the house on a satisfactory footing. (fn. 302) Before he died he explained to the prior and senior monks that the house was about £2,000 in debt, and advised them to choose for his successor a good and simple man, and not one proud and pompous. (fn. 303)
The ordinances he made for the abbey and cells (fn. 304) show that discipline and conduct were no longer what they had been. The rule of silence was to be kept, (fn. 305) and satisfaction was to be made for every infraction, not occasional amends after much breaking of the rule; there must be no idle talk and slander; there was to be no swearing by the wounds, blood or limbs of Christ; none but the cellarer or kitchener was to keep a dog for coursing; there must be no wandering about alone, nor loitering at doors talking to women, and except in company of a brother of mature age none was to hold converse with a woman; private property was strictly forbidden; the chamberlain was never to give money to the brothers instead of clothes, and when new clothing was allotted the old must be given up; food left over from meals was to be distributed in alms; the order of priesthood was not to be given too soon, and outside office was not to be bestowed on a monk who had not been three years in the cloister and behaved well during that time.
The changes Maryns introduced, if generally in the direction of diminished strictness, were marked by humanity and good sense. Certain services were shortened that greater devotion might ensue (fn. 306); charities of drink on festivals between Michaelmas and Easter (fn. 307) were abolished, but permitted instead on Sundays from Easter to Michaelmas; the period of rest for those who had been bled was extended, and privileges of recreation were restored that John de Berkhampstead had withdrawn on account of their abuse (fn. 308); in pittances to sick brothers suitability to the needs of the recipients was alone to be considered, and not price as hitherto. (fn. 309)
In spite of Maryns's last injunctions the electors made a bad choice. Still the mistake is not surprising: as cellarer (fn. 310) Hugh de Eversden had had a training in administration, and as a favourite of the king he might be expected to benefit the house. He was a tall, handsome, pleasant man. (fn. 311) On his election he is reported to have said that the brothers might have chosen a wiser and more learned man than himself but no better fellow. (fn. 312) Unfortunately in an Abbot of St. Albans qualities other than social gifts were needed.
Hugh's small knowledge of Latin made him shrink from a visit to the pope, so he sent proctors to obtain his confirmation. The result was but double expense. His deputies, after staying a long while and making many presents, returned with the message that Hugh must go himself. He went, and to make up for deficiencies in learning gave so lavishly that he drew praise even from the greedy papal court. (fn. 313) Such generosity was hardly in keeping with the state of the house, which in October 1309 had to be protected from the consequence of its inability to pay its debts. (fn. 314)
Hugh, who had a special devotion for the Virgin Mary, seems at once to have set about the completion of the chapel in her honour begun long before. (fn. 315) He also renewed the quire stalls, in this work receiving help from the king, for Edward, hearing while on a visit to the abbey in March 1314 (fn. 316) that it had been his father's intention to restore the quire, gave 100 marks and timber for that purpose. (fn. 317) This was but one of many favours to Hugh (fn. 318) and the monastery. The abbot was appointed in April 1309 to survey the Templars' manors south of the Tweed, then in the king's hands (fn. 319); in May 1311 he received licence to acquire in mortmain property to the value of £100 (fn. 320); in 1312 the abbey's charters were confirmed (fn. 321); in 1313 one of its liberties was defined for its advantage (fn. 322); in April 1314 its privileges were declared unannulled by disuse. (fn. 323) From a writ to the Exchequer in February 1314 it appears that the king had given the abbot and convent £100 and lent them £300 (fn. 324); and in November 1325 he granted them a respite for two years of all debts due to him. (fn. 325)
Edward's friendship for Hugh is shown even more plainly in the affair of Binham Priory. The abbot, on the authority at first perhaps of a papal faculty, (fn. 326) had extorted large sums from the cells. If his demands were refused, he threatened to quarter himself on the house or its manors for a protracted period, and the prior yielded to avoid a worse evil. (fn. 327) At last the Prior and convent of Binham revolted, (fn. 328) and with the aid of their patron, Robert de Walkefare, in 1319 excluded the abbot from visitation. (fn. 329) William de Somertone, the prior, appealed in person to the pope, and the abbot was summoned to Avignon to answer him. Here the king intervened. Hugh, apparently ready to obey the pope, started, but at Dover was arrested by Edward's orders and made to desist from his journey, much to his satisfaction. (fn. 330) Through the king's help too he was enabled to take the rebellious monks prisoners to St. Albans (fn. 331) and get hold of Somertone and his papal bulls, which of course were not seen again. (fn. 332) It seems a curious anti-climax that the abbot should afterwards have restored Somertone to Binham; but the prior had powerful supporters (fn. 333) and Hugh was not courageous. (fn. 334) The abbot's conduct towards the cells makes it improbable that the villeins were treated justly by him. Their attempt to throw off the abbey's yoke just after the deposition of Edward II was certainly characterized by bitter hostility. They laid regular siege to the abbey, and tried to reduce it by starving out the monks and by a sudden nocturnal attack. (fn. 335) The negotiations at St. Paul's resulted in a victory for them, and the abbot had to cede to them freedom of his warren and the right to raise hand-mills at their will. (fn. 336) It was a crushing blow to Hugh, who survived the humiliation only a few months. He left debts of 5,000 marks and a large burden of pensions and corrodies. Moreover, for immediate gain he had let property very disadvantageously, and had recklessly wasted wood. (fn. 337) Altogether from extraordinary sources he raised over £18,000 during his abbacy. (fn. 338) It is not denied that some of the expense was legitimate and even unavoidable. He was heavily handicapped at the start with the debts and heavy charges of the three preceding abbots. (fn. 339) Wars diminished the value of the abbey's possessions, (fn. 340) especially in the North (fn. 341); in 1315 there was a bad famine (fn. 342); and the collapse of buildings in 1323 (fn. 343) made extensive repairs (fn. 344) inevitable. The arrangement by which the appropriation of Coniscliffe Church was at last rendered effectual (fn. 345) was not made without cost, and the same is true as to the acquisition of Caldecote Manor (fn. 346) and other property. Yet when all is said, the abbot's actual needs and difficulties only make his profusion more inexcusable. What can be thought of a man who, while wringing money from the dependent priories, bestowed a pension for life on a baby merely to get a name for munificence? (fn. 347) He seems to have been equally shallow and selfish. Religious in the sense that he was careful to ordain his anniversary, (fn. 348) he brought his reputation and profession into contempt by his fondness for women's society. (fn. 349)
He was followed by the most interesting of all the Abbots of St. Albans. Richard de Wallingford, the son of a blacksmith of Wallingford, lost his parents when he was ten years old, and was cared for and educated by the prior of his native place, who sent him to Oxford. (fn. 350) When twentytwo years of age he became a monk at St. Albans, but after three years there returned to Oxford, where he spent the next nine years (fn. 351) in the study of theology, philosophy, and particularly mathematics, for which he had a special bent. (fn. 352)
His hesitation at accepting office was believed to be feigned, (fn. 353) but the thought of undertaking such responsibility might well make him pause. Everything spoke of difficulty. The financial problem was prominent at once, for all the obedientiaries and most of the priors of cells omitted to give the present usually made to a new abbot. (fn. 354) When Richard in the company of Nicholas de Flamstead, who became his great counsellor and friend, reached Avignon he found that his election was not in form. (fn. 355) To avoid delay and expense he therefore asked the pope to provide an abbot, and was himself appointed by papal provision. (fn. 356) From the first he struck the note of retrenchment: in the interval between election and the journey to the pope he had lived in the humblest style, (fn. 357) and at the feast of inauguration he dined in the frater with the convent, not with the great people in the abbot's chamber. (fn. 358) At one time too he certainly meant to live away from the abbey (fn. 359) for economy. The revelations at the abbot's first visitation of the convent (fn. 360) made plain the need of reform. Many were accused of carnal sin, though some cleared themselves, but, says the chronicler, how God knows (fn. 361); others were found guilty of disobedience, (fn. 362) some of holding property, and certain, of obtaining entrance into the convent by simony. Richard dealt gently with all the offenders, (fn. 363) but required those who had paid to become monks to renounce the order publicly. If his mildness was construed as weakness by any they were soon undeceived. Five obedientiaries, after repeated admonitions, continued to neglect payment of their share of the clerical tenth. The abbot therefore proclaimed them in chapter, removed them from office, excommunicated them and sentenced them to corporal discipline twice a week. It is true he was persuaded immediately to remit the sentence on a promise of amendment. (fn. 364) The episode was a revelation of Richard's determination to be master, and was like a challenge to the disaffected. A conspiracy was set on foot to depose the abbot on the ground of his illness, for he was believed to be suffering from leprosy, (fn. 365) or to get the king to appoint one of their party as warden. Richard, outwardly unperturbed, said it was a matter of indifference to him whether he remained abbot or not, but he cared enough to excommunicate all who were trying to wrest his temporalities from him. (fn. 366) This may have quelled the sedition, for it was not successful. The abbot in due course visited the cells, published constitutions of reform, (fn. 367) the nature of which is probably to be gathered from those for Redbourn, (fn. 368) paid the poorest and most pressing creditors or came to terms with them, (fn. 369) repaired the abbey's property (fn. 370) and replenished stores. (fn. 371) He found time too for his own pursuits, compiling books on astronomy and geometry, (fn. 372) and constructing a wonderful clock, to which he gave the punning name Albion. (fn. 373) In this work he received no encouragement. The brothers thought it sheer folly, and the king, when on a visit to the monastery, told the abbot reproachfully that he ought rather to bestow his attention on the south side of the church still in ruins. Richard made an apt rejoinder: his successors could restore the church, for builders were always to be had, but if he left his clock unfinished, so it must remain. (fn. 374) Absorbed as he might appear in his occupations, his vigilance for the abbey's interest never failed. The attempt of the nuns of Sopwell at independence was quietly frustrated, (fn. 375) and the abbey's hold over St. Mary de Pré was strengthened. (fn. 376)
To regain the rights of which the monastery had been deprived by the villeins was a more serious enterprise, and for this he had long to scheme and wait. With unobtrusive care he prevented the possibility of complications through ties of relationship between townsmen and convent and provided himself with friends among the neighbouring gentry. (fn. 377) When the moment seemed propitious he began the contest by a legitimate exertion of his ecclesiastical authority which was resisted, (fn. 378) as he had doubtless expected it would be. The villeins further put themselves in the wrong by indicting the abbot and archdeacon of the murder of the two men killed in the scuffle. (fn. 379) The abbot easily cleared himself, and then assuming the offensive brought a counter-charge of conspiracy against the coroner of the liberty, and accused the villeins of having extorted privileges from the abbot and convent by force. After winning a verdict as to his right to multure, he frightened or cajoled the townsmen into complete submission. (fn. 380) They entered into bonds of 3,000 marks to keep their agreements, gave up their common chest and mill-stones, (fn. 381) and in April 1332 surrendered their charter and seal into Chancery. (fn. 382) Once triumphant he made friends with them unreservedly and delighted them all in spite of his disfigurement, (fn. 383) for uncertainty about his disease had long since vanished. He was now in an advanced state of leprosy, (fn. 384) and his removal was again suggested, though not by the convent, whose admiration he had gained by his success over the villeins. As the result of outside intrigues the pope ordered an inquiry into the alleged maladministration of St. Albans through the abbot's ill-health, (fn. 385) and before the visit of the commissioners to the monastery took place in January 1333 (fn. 386) provided to the abbey Richard de Ildesle, a monk of Abingdon. (fn. 387) On hearing of the papal provision, Richard dispatched Nicholas de Flamstead, now prior, to represent his case to the king in Parliament, and secured the support of the Council. (fn. 388) Moreover, to afford no ground for future interference, he proposed to the convent that he should have a coadjutor, and the prior was selected for that office. (fn. 389) But his strongest defence lay in the monks themselves, who let Ildesle know that if he ever tried to effect an entrance into the abbey they would kill him. (fn. 390) The abbot appears a rather lonely figure towards the end, for his affection for the prior sensibly diminished after Nicholas became coadjutor. (fn. 391) He thought him ungrateful for siding with the convent in a dispute about pittances. (fn. 392) In the winter of 1334 he became much worse, (fn. 393) but he lived until 23 May 1336. (fn. 394)
Among his many benefits to the abbey must be reckoned the register he made of its deeds and the table of its privileges. (fn. 395) Through the influence of Richard de Bury, keeper of the king's privy seal, to whom he gave and sold books, (fn. 396) he obtained licence in January 1331 to appropriate the church of Appleton in Ryedale (co. York). (fn. 397) He also secured a grant that on the signification of the Abbot of St. Albans as of a bishop the chancellor should issue writs for the arrest of excommunicated persons. (fn. 398) He helped to erect the new almonry and schoolhouses, began a new cloister, and built extensively at Tyttenhanger. (fn. 399)
Richard had a worthy successor in Michael de Mentmore, a devout and learned man who had made profession at St. Albans in Abbot Hugh's time and had had charge of the studies there. (fn. 400) Conditions from the beginning were easier for him than for Richard. The pope confirmed his election without demur (fn. 401) on 18 November 1336, (fn. 402) and a few days later granted an indulgence of 100 days to benefit the fabric. (fn. 403) The king, too, gave very favourable terms for the payment of the fine. (fn. 404)
Of course Michael had difficulties, but compared with Richard's they were unimportant. Through his predecessor's omission to cancel a bond of £200 he had to grant a pension to redeem the obligation. (fn. 405) Claims to an annuity and a debt settled long before were revived, (fn. 406) but here the abbot was sure of his ground. The abbey's ownership of Caldecote Manor (fn. 407) and of a messuage in London (fn. 408) had to be defended from the Prior of Bushmead and the Knights Hospitallers. The affair that gave most trouble was the endeavour of some of the abbey's tenants at Barnet to prove by forged charters that their land was not held in bondage. (fn. 409) Both sides bribed freely, and the abbot's victory was at one time anything but certain. (fn. 410)
Michael's ordinances for the convent, for the most part explanatory of the statutes of Pope Benedict, published by him in 1338, (fn. 411) show throughout a sense of equity and order. One half of the convent was to dine in the oriel one day and the other half the next, that there might be no favouritism in granting relief from the monotony of meals in the frater. (fn. 412) The kitchener was to provide two good and sufficient courses on fish and flesh days, (fn. 413) for by this time it was permitted to eat meat. The amount of clothing to be allotted yearly was fixed, and not left as heretofore to the discretion of the chamberlain. (fn. 414) There was to be a fund to supply the monks with a few luxuries, (fn. 415) and this, with the money contributed in like manner by obedientiaries and priors of cells for the maintenance of scholars at the university, was to be administered by a committee of three chosen by the abbot, prior and convent respectively. (fn. 416) For the encouragement of learning at the monastery the abbot provided special quarters for students and changed the hour of one of the masses for their convenience. (fn. 417)
As the result of actual losses (fn. 418) Michael forbade priors of cells and obedientiaries to act as proxies or executors of wills or undertake any public duty without the abbot's consent. Constitutions were made by him also for the hospital of St. Julian and for Sopwell. (fn. 419)
Michael's goodness and charm attracted to the abbey an old knight, Sir Ralph Wedon, who boarded there for a time and gave the convent his manor of 'Heymundescote' (possibly in Amersham, co. Bucks.). For this, which it was judged more prudent to sell, they received 500 marks. (fn. 420) The stone quarry at Eglemount, another of Michael's acquisitions, was useful for his expensive building operations. (fn. 421) From motives of economy, since residence at Tyttenhanger involved expensive hospitality, he pulled down and sold his predecessor's hall there and built a house at Bradway which was more retired. (fn. 422) He did much to the cloisters (fn. 423) and finished the restoration of the south side of the church. (fn. 424) The abbot gave many books to the church, (fn. 425) and costly offerings were made by Dame Parnel de Banstead, who deserved remembrance, moreover, for her practical lesson to the convent. (fn. 426)
Abbot Michael fell a victim to the Black Death in 1349. He was taken ill on Thursday in Holy Week, (fn. 427) grew rapidly worse and died on Easter Day. He was gentle, modest and just, and was deeply mourned by all.
The abbot's election was as usual by way of compromise, and the electors (fn. 430) after Henry de Stukle, Prior of Wymondham, had absolutely declined office, chose another of their number, Thomas de la Mare, Prior of Tynemouth. (fn. 431) There could have been none better fitted for the post. He had shown his ability in the offices of kitchener and cellarer at St. Albans and in his rule at Tynemouth (fn. 432); his goodness was as undoubted as his devotion to religion (fn. 433); and, points by no means unimportant, he was handsome, well bred and well connected. (fn. 434) At that time he was about forty years of age, in the prime of life and vigour. His journey to Avignon was not without dangers. One of the two monks accompanying him died of the pestilence at Canterbury, and owing to the disturbed state of France the party separated at Calais, where secular dress was assumed by all. At the papal court one of the examiners, Cardinal Gillelmo, hoping for presents, tried to delay the proceedings, but his efforts were frustrated by Cardinal Périgord, who had conceived a great liking for the abbot-elect. (fn. 435) When confirmation and benediction (fn. 436) had at last been received the abbot fell dangerously ill, recovering strangely enough after the drinking of some putrid water seemed to make the case desperate. (fn. 437)
On reaching home he went to do homage for his temporalities to the king, who was much attracted by him. It is said indeed that although he might be prejudiced against the abbot in his absence, his resentment always vanished as soon as he saw him. (fn. 438)
The king's assistance had to be involved at once against the papal nuncio who was unjustly demanding first-fruits from the new Prior of Tynemouth. (fn. 439) The abbot had prevented, but only by heavy payment, a papal nominee being placed in the cell. (fn. 440)
In 1351, after sufficient time had elapsed for life at St. Albans to resume its normal aspect, Abbot Thomas published in a chapter-general at Michaelmas certain constitutions to be observed in the abbey and its cells. (fn. 441) All the brethren were to attend and remain throughout divine service, which was to be given in its entirety; the psalms, sung hitherto without point or sense, (fn. 442) were now to be rendered with requisite pauses, and that the service might not take longer one or two omissions were to be made; a limit was also put to the reading of commemorations, that by preventing tedium, the divine office might be celebrated more devoutly than it had been; the festivals marked out for special observance were Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the Passion of St. Alban; the Dedication day of the abbey was to be kept in the cells. Priors of cells were to be as much as possible with their convents in order to instruct them by example and words; priests must not allow more than three days to elapse without celebrating mass; all the brothers, however small the convent, were to rise at night for matins, and that it might be easier for them to do so they were to sleep in the dormitory; the priest whose turn it was to perform high mass for the week must remain with the rest of the convent and not leave the cloister for any cause except illness; the then archdeacon, however, on account of the dignity of his office and his degree had permission to go to his study and to the consistory, the sub-prior was to visit the sick as usual, and the rule was not to apply to any guardian of the order who had no superior in the house at the time of his course. That the hardness of the religious life might be apparent to novices, they were to be called to a chapter by their master at least every fortnight and punished for their faults; moreover, the Benedictine rule was to be read to them frequently that they might know what would be required of them. Brothers when their faults were published in chapter were not to deny their guilt untruthfully or defend their wrong-doing. The quiet of the cloisters was not to be disturbed by concourse of secular persons, and when the monks were there the entrance of women was forbidden. Monks both of the abbey and the cells instead of outdoor labour (fn. 443) were to occupy themselves with study, reading, writing, illuminating and binding books, or in such work for the benefit of the house as the abbot or priors thought best. The rule as to silence was to be strictly observed, a distinction being made in the punishment of habitual or occasional offenders. Brothers summoned to the table of the abbot or prior or to eat in the oriel were to abstain from detraction, contentions and idle conversation; there were to be no superfluous potations or empty talk after dinner, and not even in summer was the warden of the frater to allow this kind of indulgence as had been usual; confession to secular priests or religious of other orders was forbidden except in special circumstances; monks without leave of the head of the house where they lived must neither undertake to look after the property of secular persons nor deposit property with them. Food was to be provided for the brothers according to ancient custom as far as means allowed, so that they had at least two dishes daily; clothing to the annual value of 24s., but never money, was to be given to each brother; the rule as to old clothing and remains of food was reiterated. Alms must not be sold; the sub-prior was to visit those ill in the infirmary daily, and see that their needs were supplied; as far as their illnesses permitted, the sick were to be content with ordinary food, and they were not to stay in the infirmary longer than necessary; playing at dice or chess was forbidden to all; obedientiaries were exhorted to behave circumspectly, since by their conduct the outside world judged the religious generally; they must abstain from unlawful and fraudulent contracts and from misrepresentation in buying and selling, oppress none by force or unjust exactions, avoid women everywhere, never enter taverns, eat and drink only within the bounds of the abbey or priory, and if obliged to be away a night, first state the reason. To procure office by prayers or threats and the intervention of secular persons was forbidden on penalty of disqualification for office during three years; on the other hand, persistent refusal of office was to be punished by excommunication and imprisonment.
The ordinances are an interesting revelation of the abbot's character as well as the state of the convent. The changes in the services aimed at making religious exercises real instead of mechanical; obstacles to the profession of suitable persons arising from matters unessential to religion (fn. 444) were removed; at the same time an effort was made to prevent the entrance of those unfitted for monastic life.
The abbot may have had good reason to believe that the novitiate had not always been a test of vocation. That he found it necessary to forbid disputes and frivolous conversation at his own table is sufficient comment on discipline at St. Albans. He himself was exceedingly particular about manners (fn. 445) as well as conduct, and in the end both his monks and servants became noted for the correctness of their behaviour. But the result could not have been attained without great steadfastness of purpose, and the immediate consequence is probably to be seen in the many monks who 'unable to bear the rigour of religion' apostatized in his time. Some of them returned, (fn. 446) and to avoid the scandal caused by the frequency of public penance at the abbey for desertion it was provided that if the monks had run away from cells they should be punished at those places. (fn. 447)
There is an indication that after a few years of rule the abbot became rather disheartened in his wish to resign, communicated to King John of France when he visited the abbey during his captivity in England. (fn. 448) On the king's return to France he was reminded of his promise to use his good offices with the pope in the matter, but was dissuaded by the Black Prince, who was convinced that the monastery would be ruined if the abbot carried out his intentions. The abbey chronicler regarded the projected resignation as an attempt to shirk a solemn trust, for which the abbot's subsequent trials were a judgement. It could hardly be said, however, that the abbot in actual deed failed in his duty. His sense of responsibility can be seen in his many contests on the abbey's behalf. These are sometimes cited, though unfairly, as a proof of his litigiousness. It would have been impossible, for example, to ignore the affront offered to the house by Sir Philip Lymbury, who put John de la Moot, the cellarer, in the pillory at Luton. (fn. 449) This matter was soon settled by Henry Duke of Lancaster; but the proceedings in John de Chilterne's case lasted for years. (fn. 450)
Chilterne, one of the St. Albans tenants, apparently disputed the abbey's right to a rent and refused to pay. The abbot at last, by way of distraint, seized fifty cattle which Chilterne defiantly told him he could starve for all he cared. Horrible to relate, this was done, the abbot's advisers telling him he would prejudice his cause if he fed them. Chilterne naturally enough was furious, and it was probably then that he accused the abbot of usurping the king's overlordship of certain land. Verdicts were given in the abbot's favour in 1364 and 1366, and Chilterne came to an agreement with the abbot and promised to abstain from further molestation. Resuming hostilities, he forfeited the bonds he had entered into, was outlawed, and fled to France, where he remained until the Black Prince and other influential friends of Abbot Thomas were dead. As soon as he returned the abbot had him imprisoned by writ of outlawry. Chilterne obtained his liberation once by assuring the king that he could give him information worth £1,000 against the abbey, but was immediately prosecuted again by the abbot. While in prison he renewed the matter of the overlordship, and, although the abbot gained the day in the end, the affair lasted until 1390.
In 1356 and 1368 the abbot brought a suit to recover from the parson of Harpole (co. Northants) arrears of a rent of 30s. (fn. 451) which by an agreement of 1348 was paid in lieu of tithes (fn. 452); in 1365 he took proceedings against Richard Pecche for unlawful distress in a tenement belonging to the abbey in London, (fn. 453) and in 1367 against the nuns of Markyate for payment of a rent which the prioress could not deny she owed. (fn. 454)
Nor can it be said that his firmness was reserved for insignificant and comparatively powerless opponents. He prosecuted his case vigorously in the papal court in 1379 against the Archbishop of York, who had fined him for non-appearance at a synod to which he had not been summoned, and had unjustly sequestrated the issues of the church of Appleton in Ryedale (co. York) appropriated to the monastery. (fn. 455)
The king himself in his persistent attempts to exact a second corrody from the convent in 1358 met with a resolute resistance. (fn. 456) The abbot, however, saw the wisdom of leaving no room for future encroachments of this kind, and in 1364 bought out the royal right to a perpetual corrody, (fn. 457) as in 1350 he had given the king the advowson of Datchet Church in exchange for the convent's obligation on the creation of every new abbot to pay an annual pension of 100s. to a clerk nominated by the Crown. (fn. 458) It says something for the position occupied by Alice Perrers that she was the sole person before whom Abbot Thomas gave way. The relative of a former owner claimed some land in Oxhey granted to the abbey by John de Whitewell and his mother, (fn. 459) and to hold his own made it over to feoffees, one of whom was Alice Perrers. (fn. 460) From that time until she fell from power the abbot let matters rest. He then entered upon the land, and although he had subsequently a long contest on the subject with Sir William de Windsor and his nephew he made good his right. (fn. 461)
The question of exemption had to be fought more than once by Abbot Thomas. When the Bishop of Lincoln asked to come to the obsequies of Blanche Duchess of Lancaster at the abbey in 1369 the abbot, suspicious of his intentions, made his consent conditional on a written acknowledgement of the monastery's privileges, which the bishop very reluctantly conceded. (fn. 462)
In 1380 De la Mare challenged the right of the Bishop of Norwich to make the Prior of Wymondham sub-collector of the clerical tenth in his diocese. The bishop persisted in his claim to the prior's obedience, but to no purpose (fn. 463); and in August of that year the king granted that neither the abbot nor the priors of his cells should be collectors or assessors of any subsidy. (fn. 464)
The proposed visitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Benedictine College at Oxford in 1389 concerned all the exempt monasteries, but Abbot Thomas was left to deal with the matter, principally, no doubt, because of the archbishop's affectionate regard for him. (fn. 465) The archbishop, in fact, received and heard the abbot's messenger with the utmost kindness and in the end graciously yielded. (fn. 466)
Yet, notwithstanding the abbot's successful activity, it is more than hinted that fear or favour blinded him sometimes to the monastery's interests. For instance, he suffered a rent of 33s. 4d. due from the Earl of Salisbury, his kinsman, for a house at Paul's Wharf, London, to remain unpaid year after year; and in his time various rights granted by popes or kings were first withdrawn, especially the fines and amercements of the St. Albans tenants in the marshal's and other royal courts. (fn. 467) But it is unlikely that he submitted without protest to any injury to the abbey. He had once, at least, in the case of the clerk of the market of the king's hospice in 1364, claimed his privileges and won. (fn. 468)
The insurrection of 1381 (fn. 469) was the most formidable difficulty encountered by Abbot Thomas. Early in his rule the villeins may have shown signs of disaffection. The charge brought against the abbot in 1354 of permitting escapes from his gaol is said to have been due to a conspiracy on their part. (fn. 470)
It was possibly, indeed, a foreboding of danger in this quarter that induced the abbot in 1357 to crenellate the monastery. (fn. 471) There can, however, have been no apprehension or reason for it just before the rising. In fact, it seems certain that but for the outbreak elsewhere there would have been no movement here: there was no premeditated plan, no sudden explosion of anger, and very little violence and destruction. The villeins departed for London with the abbot's sanction, (fn. 472) and it was not until they reached the city that there was a sign of the feeling that made the abbey's retainers hurry back to warn the prior and other unpopular members of the convent to escape. The deputation of townsmen in their negotiations with the abbot owned that he had been a just and kind lord and said they would have made no disturbance in his days if the opportunity had not been too good to let slip. The abbot's behaviour throughout was characteristic. He had first determined not to yield, and it was only the entreaties of the frightened monks that made him give way. Afterwards, if he was careful to recover the rights wrested from him, (fn. 473) he did not forget it was his duty to protect his subjects, but interceded on behalf of the St. Albans villeins implicated in the London riots, interfered when Lee tried to frighten a jury into indicting the ringleaders, and seems to have done his utmost to avert the king's visit. The villeins, embittered by failure, accused him of hypocrisy and vindictiveness, (fn. 474) but apparently without foundation. (fn. 475) They did not cease to harass him where they could, (fn. 476) though the malicious burning of conventual property at Sandridge and elsewhere (fn. 477) a few years later is probably not to be attributed to them.
Just before the peasants' rising Abbot Thomas had undertaken measures of the greatest financial benefit to the abbey. The fine of 1,000 marks at every vacancy was in September 1380 exchanged by the king at the abbot's entreaty for a yearly rent of 50 marks. (fn. 478) To avoid the heavy expenses incurred by abbotselect at the papal court (fn. 479) Thomas negotiated with the pope in 1381 (fn. 480) for a bull declaring election sufficient without confirmation and permitting benediction by any Catholic bishop. The indult was granted at last in October 1395, and first-fruits with all other payments on vacancies were commuted for 20 marks a year. (fn. 481) Another bull of the same date empowered the abbot and his successors to bless ecclesiastical vessels and ornaments of the monastery and its subject priories, churches and chapels. (fn. 482)
There is an occasional side-light on the internal affairs of the house. To remedy the lack of priests in the convent caused by the plague the pope in 1351 licensed the abbot to choose for ordination thirty monks of St. Albans and its cells between twenty and twenty-five years old, (fn. 483) and in 1363 he granted similar dispensation for twenty monks aged twenty. (fn. 484)
Visitations by deputies of the Abbot of Peterborough in 1378 (fn. 485) and of the Prior of Ely in 1381 (fn. 486) redounded to the praise of the convent. This satisfactory state of things was not the result of mere repression and severity. Abbot Thomas was a kind and just ruler. (fn. 487) Extremely ascetic himself, (fn. 488) he did not expect similar austerity in his monks. The increase in the income of the kitchener's office at his expense in 1363 (fn. 489) had for its object the improvement of the convent's food supply, (fn. 490) and the reform he effected at Redbourn was to the same end. (fn. 491) But he insisted on the obedience due to him. Though he could not forbid, he undoubtedly resented the departure of the monks (fn. 492) for the crusade in Flanders in 1383, and he promptly expelled those (fn. 493) who in 1387 secured exemption from discipline by obtaining papal chaplaincies. (fn. 494)
The work of members of the convent is perhaps the best testimony to his rule.
Full use seems to have been made of the scriptorium, rebuilt at his cost through the energy of Thomas de Walsingham, the precentor. (fn. 495) The beautiful 'Book of Benefactors of St. Albans,' now at Cambridge, witnesses to the great appreciation of artistic merit at this period. (fn. 496) Literary activity then was probably greater than since the days of Matthew Paris. 'The Chronicle of England, 1328-88,' 'The Chronicle by a Monk of St. Albans,' (fn. 497) 'The Annals of Richard II,' (fn. 498) and 'The English History' called Thomas Walsingham's were all largely due to his monks, whose work was at least equal in quality and surpassed in quantity that of their predecessors in the 14th century, Rishanger, (fn. 499) Trokelowe and Blaneforde. Of the brothers living at the abbey in 1380, (fn. 500) Thomas Walsingham was the author of the Gesta Abbatum from the abbacy of Hugh de Eversden. (fn. 501) Nicholas Radclif wrote against the Wycliffite doctrines, (fn. 502) and Simon de Southerey was noted in his day for his verse and knowledge of astronomy. (fn. 503) But scope was found for talent in other directions besides compiling or writing books. (fn. 504) John de Bokedene and William Stubard, a lay brother and stonemason, carried out various building operations, (fn. 505) Robert de Trunche was apparently a painter, (fn. 506) and a monk, William Walsham, helped to repair Abbot Richard's clock. (fn. 507) Several made handsome gifts of vestments and ornaments to the church (fn. 508) in emulation of their abbot, who was lavish in offerings. (fn. 509) Though these were the outcome of his own religious fervour, he was doubtless aware of the aid that splendour and beauty of ritual might render in that revival of devotion which he tried to promote (fn. 510) by preaching (fn. 511) and organizing solemn processions of intercession on special occasions. (fn. 512) Thomas de la Mare resembled John de Hertford in his open-handedness. Unsparing of money on the affairs of the abbey, in upholding its rights, extending its privileges, in acquiring property (fn. 513) and in building, (fn. 514) he also incurred great expense in presiding over the provincial chapter (fn. 515) 1351-63, in visitations of monasteries, probably those undertaken at the request of King Edward, (fn. 516) in presents to royal and noble patrons, (fn. 517) and especially in entertaining. He added new accommodation for noble guests, (fn. 518) and hospitality must have been continual and generous, for a staff of huntsmen and falconers was maintained, though neither the abbot nor his monks even looked on at sport. (fn. 519)
The Black Prince was probably a frequent visitor (fn. 520); the King of France was received with all fitting ceremony (fn. 521); and among the many admitted to the fraternity of the convent, apparently while the abbot's guests, (fn. 522) were the Princess of Wales with her daughter and two eldest sons in 1376, (fn. 523) King Richard and Henry Earl of Derby in 1377, (fn. 524) the Duke of Gloucester in 1380, (fn. 525) and in 1386 the Duchesses of Gloucester and Lancaster. (fn. 526) Archbishop Sudbury visited the monastery in 1380, (fn. 527) and Courtenay, his successor, came by the abbot's invitation in 1382 and was splendidly entertained. (fn. 528)
The outlay was not impolitic nor without return: the abbey gained a great reputation and numerous friends, to its incalculable advantage. The list of benefactions in Abbot Thomas's day in itself is remarkable, (fn. 529) but the good feeling towards the monastery was manifested not only in gifts. The Black Prince, (fn. 530) Richard II, (fn. 531) John of Gaunt, (fn. 532) Archbishop Sudbury (fn. 533) and others (fn. 534) rendered services of more or less importance to the abbey.
The abbot was attacked by plague during the second pestilence, (fn. 535) and in his old age suffered constant pain from strangury. (fn. 536) Yet not until he was physically prostrate did he yield to remonstrance and forgo his accustomed penance and abstinences. He was very infirm when the king visited him at the abbey in March 1394, and told him to ask what he wanted of him. (fn. 537) In October 1395 a papal indult was obtained permitting the claustral prior in the abbot's illness or absence to admit novices and absolve and dispense the monks for irregularity. (fn. 538) Tended devotedly by his monks, the abbot lingered on, helpless and often in agony, but careful to the end of the welfare of his house. (fn. 539) He died at length on 16 September 1396, aged eighty-seven, universally respected and admired. (fn. 540)
The convent's choice of the prior, John de la Moote, (fn. 541) to be abbot seems natural in the circumstances. During the last two years he had had entire control over the house, and as he had great experience in administration, (fn. 542) he would appear best fitted to deal with a financial situation that called for able management. It was said, however, by some that the new abbot had been anything but loyal to his predecessor, that he had used promises and threats freely to secure his own election, and that he owed his success largely to the archbishop and the king. (fn. 543) The last charge is curious in the light of after events. Thomas de la Mare not having attended Parliament for some years before his death, his place, the first amongst the abbots, had been taken by others. (fn. 544) On John de la Moote's appearance in Parliament the Abbot of Westminster attempted to take precedence of him. Moote, in a dilemma because of the king's friendship with his rival, decided to appeal to Richard himself, but the king, after telling him that he should have his rights, requested that the Abbot of Westminster might sit above him every other day until the matter was discussed further, and Moote, from fear, gave way. Richard's favour could be relied on so little that to preserve it Moote is said to have given him altogether £126. (fn. 545) The abbot conceivably owed him no good will, but it is difficult to accept entirely the story that the Duke of Gloucester's conspiracy against the king was set on foot at St. Albans and that Moote was present at the meeting at Arundel. (fn. 546) He could hardly have played so prominent a part in the affair and escaped all consequences. Still, there could have been no doubt to which side Moote inclined, for on the king's fall he was appointed to guard the Bishop of Carlisle, Richard's partisan. (fn. 547) If Moote engaged in political intrigue the departure from Abbot de la Mare's neutral attitude (fn. 548) was scarcely justified by results. The immediate consequence of the accession of Henry IV was to increase the power of his half-brother, the Bishop of Lincoln, and so put the abbey at a disadvantage. When the bishop was to perform the obsequies of John of Gaunt at St. Albans in 1399, Moote obtained a royal writ to Beaufort forbidding anything derogatory to the abbey's privileges, and was able to exact letters of indemnity from the bishop and refuse to allow him and his mother to lodge in the monastery. (fn. 549) But after Richard's fall the abbot permitted Beaufort to stay at the abbey and exercise episcopal rights within the exempt area, and only after propitiatory gifts secured from him an acknowledgement of the immunities of St. Albans. (fn. 550) It is true that Henry IV was the first to give to the abbot the array of the clergy of the exempt jurisdiction, (fn. 551) and that shortly afterwards he came to the abbey, and was present at the services on Ascension Day 1400 in royal state, (fn. 552) but when the relations of the king and Abbot Thomas are considered these do not seem extraordinary marks of favour.
Moote is said to have been responsible for some of Abbot Thomas's wisest measures, and perhaps truly. He showed his sense in his conciliation of the villeins at the beginning of his rule (fn. 553) and in the useful papal bulls he obtained. Yet as abbot he was not satisfactory. In striking contrast to Thomas de la Mare, whose mistakes even arose from his generous nature, (fn. 554) he readily gave ear to whisperers and informers and bore grudge silently against those he suspected. (fn. 555) But the principal cause of his failure lay in his one-sidedness, that had before manifested itself in an attempt to aggrandize each office held by him at the expense of the others. (fn. 556) His love of building, beneficial to the house as long as it was kept within limits, with the removal of control became a mania to which everything was sacrificed. While cellarer and prior he had done much good work (fn. 557) in keeping the abbey's property in order, (fn. 558) and after he became abbot he continued his improvements to the monastery and began to rebuild the students' rooms at Oxford. In the construction, however, of a princely residence for himself at Tyttenhanger, a scheme of doubtful value to the abbey, (fn. 559) he passed all bounds in extravagance and forgetfulness of duty. Estates were neglected so that rents decreased; hospitality and alms were cut down, numbers of hirelings were fed by the abbot, while obedientiaries and tenants were burdened with carriage to the detriment of their business; the cells were unvisited and, owing to his mistaken or careless choice of priors, were badly managed; and now, in order to urge on the operations at Tyttenhanger, the abbot was continually absent from the monastery, so that 'religion perished.' (fn. 560) At one time Moote had ingratiated himself with the convent, distributing among them the pigeons of his dovecot, doubling their supply of spices (fn. 561) and relaxing the rule as to recreation in Lent and Advent (fn. 562); latterly he had been mean and ungracious, and the monks were beginning to murmur loudly, when he was seized with pleurisy at Tyttenhanger, and died after a short illness at St. Albans on 11 November 1401, leaving many debts and stores and furniture much reduced. (fn. 563)
The election was notable for the outside influence exerted on behalf of the kitchener, Robert Botheby. (fn. 564) Fortunately the king's persuasions and the interference of his treasurer were alike unavailing; the convent elected the cellarer, William Heyworth, by a large majority. (fn. 565) The new abbot, still only a probationer in religion, was very young, (fn. 566) but he was obviously skilful in dealing with men and affairs. He reconciled the king at once to the convent's choice, got through the necessary formalities with unusual speed and economy, and secured more credit. (fn. 567)
The promotion of Botheby to be Prior of Wallingford, (fn. 568) while calculated to please the king, was also prudent in view of Heyworth's absence for two years from St. Albans to keep down expenses. (fn. 569) When finances had been reduced to order, the buildings at Oxford and Tyttenhanger were finished (fn. 570) and the cloisters completed. (fn. 571)
The abbot saw that the newly-acquired papal indults did not fall into desuetude, (fn. 572) and carefully guarded the other privileges of his house. In 1405 he obtained from Henry confirmation of their charters, with the addition of a clause restoring to the Abbots of St. Albans fines of their men and tenants amerced in the courts of the king's steward and marshal, and clerk of the market of his hospice. (fn. 573) He asserted in 1408 his right to the chattels of a felon taken within his liberty, (fn. 574) and checked the attempts of the clergy of his exempt jurisdiction to deprive the abbey of Peter's Pence and other dues. (fn. 575) Payment of pensions owed by the parsons of Girton (fn. 576) and Lubenham (fn. 577) was enforced, and compensation received for the abbey's claim to the rent at Paul's Wharf. (fn. 578) Possibly Heyworth after a time found his task irksome: he showed certainly a strange apathy in allowing the Abbot of Westminster in 1417 to erect gallows on debatable territory, still called No Man's Land, between the abbey of Westminster's manor of Wheathampstead and the St. Albans' manor of Sandridge. On 20 November 1419 he received the bishopric of Lichfield by papal provision, (fn. 579) and in 1420 resigned the abbacy.
John Bostock, or Wheathampstead, Heyworth's successor, (fn. 580) was a remarkable personality. Whatever may be thought of his learning, of his capabilities there can be no question. The friendship of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester for him, whether literary or political, is in itself evidence of his ability. Pedant as he seems in his letters, (fn. 581) he was undoubtedly a clever man of the world, who succeeded to an extraordinary degree in making St. Albans attractive to the great and influential. Duke Humphrey visited the monastery frequently: he came on Christmas Eve 1423 with his wife Jacqueline of Hainault and 300 retainers, (fn. 582) remaining until after the Epiphany (fn. 583); in 1426 he spent three days here on his way to Leicester (fn. 584); in 1427 he offered at the shrine on recovering from an illness, (fn. 585) and that year kept Christmas splendidly at the abbey (fn. 586); in 1428 he made a short stay here (fn. 587); and in 1431 his second duchess, Eleanor Cobham, was received into the fraternity with some of her relatives and attendants. (fn. 588) The Duke and Duchess of Bedford with a train of 300 persons were entertained here in 1426 on the Festival of St. Alban (fn. 589); Queen Joan came in 1427 for worship, (fn. 590) and Queen Katharine and the little king in 1428 stayed for nine days at Easter (fn. 591); Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, visited the abbey in 1424, 1426, as cardinal in 1428 and twice in 1429 (fn. 592); and in September 1430 the Duchess of Clarence was at St. Albans. (fn. 593) Visits from the Earl of March, (fn. 594) the Countess of Westmorland, (fn. 595) the Bishop of Lichfield, (fn. 596) Sir William Babington, the chief justice, (fn. 597) are also mentioned. The Earl of Warwick was laid up here in 1428 and made liberal acknowledgement of the attention he received; he was admitted to the fraternity (fn. 598) like many others, (fn. 599) for the conferring of this honour was as much used as hospitality to increase the abbey's well-wishers. (fn. 600) It is a tribute to Wheathampstead's literary reputation that he was one of those chosen to represent England at the Council of PaviaSiena in 1423 (fn. 601) and that of Basle in 1431 (fn. 602); and that he was asked in 1427 to compose the letter from the English clergy to the pope. (fn. 603) While in Italy the abbot seized the opportunity to go to Rome, (fn. 604) where he procured certain bulls, (fn. 605) and so established himself in the pope's favour that the Bishop of Lincoln decided to cease his attack in the Council on the abbey's exemption. (fn. 606) The question was afterwards raised in other quarters. The Archbishop of Canterbury took umbrage in 1424 at the nonappearance of the priors of the cells of St. Albans at his visitations, and the letting of tithes of appropriated churches to laymen without his leave. (fn. 607) As part of the campaign against the abbey Wheathampstead was made collector of the tenth in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, but while obtaining the revocation of the appointment from the chancellor, he very sensibly went to see the archbishop (fn. 608) and managed to disarm his hostility.
A similar difficulty with the Bishop of Norwich was settled less easily. The bishop in revenge for the discourtesy shown him by the convent of Binham during a visitation made the prior collector of the next tenth. (fn. 609) The abbot in vain tried to pacify the bishop by letter and personal interview, and by the intercession of the Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford. (fn. 610) He then contested the matter in the Court of Exchequer and Convocation, (fn. 611) and after a long struggle seems to have been successful. (fn. 612)
These cases are characteristic of Wheathampstead, who like De la Mare has been called litigious (fn. 613) and with as good or as bad foundation. He was undoubtedly tenacious of the rights of his house, but seems to have been diplomatic rather than aggressive. In the means used to attain his ends, however, he was not always quite scrupulous. It has been noticed, (fn. 614) for instance, that while Offa's charter contained nothing about exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, there was much that bore directly on the point in the copy produced by the abbot before the Exchequer judges on the above occasion. The way judgement was ensured against the rector of Harpole can hardly be approved. After a consultation with Bekyngton, Dean of Arches, over a pension withdrawn from St. Albans for thirty years, (fn. 615) the abbot secured the Bishop of Lincoln's consent to the trial of the case in the Arches Court, where the decision in favour of the abbey in 1430 (fn. 616) was a foregone conclusion.
Wheathampstead showed his discretion in coming to terms the same year with Thomas Knollys over right of chase in Tyttenhanger Heath, that had been in dispute in Heyworth's time (fn. 617); he was also prudent and fortunate enough to persuade William Flete to submit the questions between them to the arbitration of Sir William Babington, and thus settle amicably an affair that might have proved as harassing as Chilterne's. (fn. 618) A dispute with the rector of Girton about a pension was referred in 1434 to Bekyngton as arbiter (fn. 619); and in 1435 the abbot recovered two quit-rents from tenements in London, one by agreement, after it had been unpaid for forty years. (fn. 620)
The mistakes in the Whitman case, 1433-5, were not Wheathampstead's. The archdeacon, after declaring Richard Whitman, an inhabitant of Rickmansworth, contumacious for not appearing to answer a charge of slander, (fn. 621) excommunicated him in face of his appeal to Rome and letters of protection from the Court of Arches.
The Archbishop of Canterbury naturally began proceedings against the archdeacon, who thereupon resigned his office. Wheathampstead, now left to cope with a difficult situation, invoked the goodwill of the official of the Arches, appealed in his turn to Rome and forced Whitman into submission. (fn. 622) Whatever sympathy may be felt for Whitman, (fn. 623) it should be remembered that the abbot could not afford to be defied by a subject.
In the affair with the Abbot of Westminster Wheathampstead's good and bad points were alike displayed. The matters at issue were the gallows on Nomansland, which by Wheathampstead's orders had been cut down in 1427, (fn. 624) and toll demanded in the St. Albans market and refused by the Abbot of Westminster and his men. (fn. 625) After the dispute had dragged on for years it was brought in 1437 before certain judges, in an unofficial capacity. When both sides had been heard Wheathampstead invited the judges to dinner and undoubtedly tried to influence them. But, although he was willing to abide by their award, his rival was not. The case therefore came into a court of law, but was not finished, Wheathampstead suspending proceedings on account of the famine. (fn. 626)
A plea of the Crown against the abbey for deodands (fn. 627) awakened the abbot to the disadvantageous obscurities of the charter of Henry II and the limitations of the confirmation in 1405. With the help of the Duke of Gloucester and at a cost of £82, (fn. 628) he obtained in April 1440 a patent defining these privileges and confirming to the abbot and convent the return of all writs, the goods and chattels of their men and tenants and of residents on their lands forfeited for outlawry or felony, fines for trespasses, conspiracies, &c., year day, and waste, deodands, treasure-trove, wreck, and anything that usually pertained to the king from murders or other felonies committed by their men or on their lands. (fn. 629) By securing a general pardon from the king in 1437 he astutely safeguarded himself from the consequences of infringement of the Statute of Mortmain; for he feared that his recent acquisitions were in excess of the licences granted to him. (fn. 630) These new possessions included the cell of Beaulieu, which, being likely to become burdensome to the abbey, was suppressed in 1428 by arrangement with the patron, Lord Grey de Ruthin. (fn. 631)
The ordinances drawn up by the abbot after a visitation of the monastery previous to his departure for Pavia in 1423, (fn. 632) although partly in common form, suggest some carelessness of observance and indiscretion. The monks were admonished to be punctual at vespers, not to leave the quire during service in order to walk about the church and talk, nor to loiter and chatter at the vestry door; frequent requests to visit relations were discountenanced ; journeys to friends were not to be made on foot; the brothers were forbidden to talk with women, or without the superior's leave to go to the nunneries near St. Albans or Redbourn; they were exhorted not to swear nor address each other discourteously in the second person singular, nor to loiter and drink, especially when they should be present in the quire; at Redbourn they were not to sit up late, and in their walks were to have an adult companion; officials were to amend their ways as regards attire (fn. 633); there were besides regulations concerned with the training of the younger monks. One rule clearly expresses the abbot's distrust of secular greed—to give no room for extortion the treasure of the house was not to be shown to strangers except with the prior's leave.
Asceticism was certainly not required of the convent by Wheathampstead. He granted the manor of Borham at this time to increase their wine and pittances, (fn. 634) and obtained a papal bull substituting a fast on the vigil of St. Alban for that between Septuagesima and Quinquagesima (fn. 635) ; in 1428 he made a beneficial change in the diet of the novices, (fn. 636) and provided for the monks pittances on Sundays during the winter, (fn. 637) in 1431 adding others on Mondays and Thursdays in summer. (fn. 638)
Important changes in administration were introduced about this time. (fn. 639) Wheathampstead established a common chest (fn. 640) from which loans could be made to the abbey or cells in emergencies (fn. 641) : it was to be kept by three monks nominated by the abbot with the convent's consent, and for its funds the rent of Gorham and a tenth of all gifts to the convent were set aside. At the same time a 'master of the works' was appointed (fn. 642) to superintend and account for all repairs to the fabric; he was also to pay the money allotted for the brothers' clothing and pittances, provide torches and candles on certain festivals, and distribute the doles to be given on Wheathampstead's anniversary. To his office was assigned the property acquired between 1425 and 1431, (fn. 643) the issues of which were to be deposited in the common chest.
The convent does not seem to have been very tractable. They manifested decided disapproval of a sale of land by the abbot to Sir John Cornwall in October 1429, two monks absolutely refusing their consent (fn. 644) ; and possibly in connexion with this incident there were shortly afterwards mutinous grumblings against the abbot, for which they had to ask his pardon. (fn. 645) Some, again, murmured rebelliously at Wheathampstead's ordinances for Redbourn in 1439. (fn. 646) These regulations provided for a proper rendering of the services, and required the monks to avoid visiting doubtful places on their way to the priory, to abstain from late hours, and drinking or other excesses which unfitted them for their religious duties, and to employ their leisure in reading or study. Several of the rules should not even have been necessary and the successful opposition to them, for Wheathampstead, in view of his projected retirement, forbore to press them, gives an unfavourable idea of the standard of conduct at the monastery. It certainly makes incredible the annalist's statement that the house then enjoyed high repute 'for the brothers' sober and religious way of life.' (fn. 647)
Of individual efforts of the convent there is not much sign. The abbot's zeal against Lollardy (fn. 648) did not apparently inspire his monks to combat heresy in treatises or sermons. Wheathampstead wrote (fn. 649) and caused to be written more books for the brothers, it is said, than any other Abbot of St. Albans, (fn. 650) but with disappointing result as regards original work by the convent. The Annales known as John Amundesham's in the inflated, tiresome manner of Wheathampstead whose deeds they eulogize, are a poor exchange for the straightforward narrative of the Gesta Abbatum; while the one historical production is the 'Chronicon Rerum Gestarum,' (fn. 651) from its style probably a mere diary. It is interesting to see that some attention was now bestowed on music, hitherto apparently neglected, for a monk in 1421 had deserted to Christchurch, Canterbury, simply to enjoy opportunities of studying that art. (fn. 652) The appointment of two salaried singing-men here in 1423, (fn. 653) the suspicion of the Bishop of Durham that a singing-boy had been enticed from his chapel to St. Albans, (fn. 654) and the purchase of new organs for the conventual church in 1428, (fn. 655) all point to Wheathampstead's endeavours to improve the services on the musical side.
Wheathampstead resigned on 26 November 1440. (fn. 656) The reasons for the step can only be hazarded, but they were probably not so much declining health, shyness and anxieties endured in the past (fn. 657) as difficulties anticipated in the future through the waning of the Duke of Gloucester's power. His expenditure for the benefit of the house had been from £5,000 to £6,000 (fn. 658) : over £1,400 had been spent in buying and securing property in mortmain (fn. 659) ; about the same sum in repairs and improvements to the manors, the town of St. Albans and the college at Oxford (fn. 660) ; £891 at the abbey (fn. 661); £142 on building a small chapel in the church and on ornaments for it and the Lady chapel (fn. 662); £641 on vestments and plate for the church (fn. 663); over £100 on plate for domestic use; £326 in presents, principally for friends of the monastery. (fn. 664)
John Stoke, Prior of Wallingford, was chosen in Wheathampstead's place. (fn. 665) He very soon began to wrangle with his predecessor, grudging apparently the provision made for him. The Duke of Gloucester was appointed arbitrator between them on 6 January 1442 and on 1 September delivered his award (fn. 666) : Wheathampstead was to surrender all estate in Tyttenhanger, and was to receive for life Park Manor and lands in Radwell; he was to have the house near the infirmary which he had rebuilt and he might go where he pleased except to Tyttenhanger Manor; a certain amount of plate was also allotted to him. It was probably fortunate for the ex-abbot that Duke Humphrey was then making arrangements for the celebration of his anniversary at St. Albans. In June 1441 he had obtained the royal licence to give the alien priory of Pembroke to the abbey for this purpose, (fn. 667) but it was not until 1 August 1443 that he actually granted the property. (fn. 668) The ordinances, drawn up presumably at this time, provided for daily masses at his sepulchre and services and distributions on his anniversary at a cost of £44 17s. 2d. a year and for the annual payment of £60 to the relief of the convent's kitchen. (fn. 669) The duke died on 23 February 1447 and was buried in the tomb already made for him in St. Albans. (fn. 670) Some jewels belonging to the abbey, which had been in his keeping, now came into the hands of the king, who presented them to his colleges of Eton and Cambridge. (fn. 671) The abbot and convent put in their claim, and it seems likely that there was a connexion between these events and the grant of extensive privileges made to the abbey by the king in November of that year. On 18 December 1448, however, avowedly in compensation for the loss of their goods, (fn. 672) they received acquittance of £20 in every clerical tenth until the sum of £600 should be reached, ratification of the duke's gift of Pembroke Priory and of their possession of the churches of Tenby and Manorbeer, co. Pembroke, appropriated under a licence of 1445, (fn. 673) and confirmation of the Letters Patent of 1440 and of the recent grant.
In dealing with his monks the abbot was not successful. One only actually apostatized, but eight others escaped from his control by procuring bulls of emigration or promotion, among them Henry Halstede, Prior, and Robert Morpath, Cellarer of Wallingford. (fn. 674) The Prior of Belvoir in 1449 secured himself from removal without reasonable cause, (fn. 675) evidently as a precaution against such action on Stoke's part as had just resulted in the loss of the cell of Wymondham to the abbey. Stephen London had been Archdeacon of St. Albans, and Stoke, who disliked him for telling him too plainly of his faults, had made him Prior of Wymondham to get rid of him and then after a few months had arbitrarily recalled him. (fn. 676) The patron, Sir Andrew Ogard, espoused London's cause, and obtained bulls which raised the priory to an abbey in 1449 and made it independent. (fn. 677) The petty spitefulness shown by Stoke (fn. 678) to London leads to the conclusion that the defections in his time were due to his faults, not to his reforming zeal. It is said that Stokes was avaricious (fn. 679) and that in his time learning (fn. 680) and preaching were neglected at the monastery, (fn. 681) but it must be remembered that the information comes from Wheathampstead's eulogist and may be biased. (fn. 682) The difficulty is to know how much allowance to make for prejudice, especially as regards the story (fn. 683) told about Stoke's favourite, William Wallingford, (fn. 684) the official-general. (fn. 685) Stoke on his death-bed informed the prior and others that he had saved 1,000 marks, (fn. 686) of which his official-general and Thomas Wallingford, his senior chaplain, had charge. When he was dead the two brothers produced 250 marks and denied all knowledge of the rest. The election resulted in the return to power of Wheathampstead, who was informed of the episode, but said nothing for a time. When, however, Wallingford presented his first accounts at Michaelmas 1453, it was discovered that although during Stoke's time seasons had been good, much wood sold, many serfs manumitted and extreme parsimony exercised at the monastery, and under the new rule expenses had been kept down, yet the granaries were empty and debts amounted to 600 marks and more. The abbot showed his surprise and dissatisfaction, expressed his opinion to the convent that there was dishonesty somewhere, and told Wallingford that unless he could manage better he must be removed. Wallingford then manipulated his accounts so that there appeared to be fewer debts and £160 in hand ; but when required soon afterwards to make certain payments he said recourse must be had to borrowing, telling the abbot that the supposed ready money had really been expended in repairs, and informing others that he had given most of it to the abbot. Wheathampstead thereupon accused him of peculation and ordered him to surrender his unlawful gains, which he heard amounted to £1,000, or he would proceed against him. Wallingford, however, promised through an intermediary to pay everything necessary, clear off the debts, and within two years have £200-£300 in the treasury, and was allowed to retain his post.
In what is apparently another version of the tale, it is related that the abbot, finding that the official-general and the senior chaplain said nothing about the 750 marks, began to suspect them, and at last questioned them on the subject ; both declared they had not had the money, and Wheathampstead, though convinced that they were lying and telling them so, let the matter drop. (fn. 687)
The story can hardly be dismissed as entirely fiction. (fn. 688) There must have been at least unpleasant rumours about Wallingford, possibly he was actually charged with dishonesty. His innocence is also not proved by his retention in office. That may have been a matter of expediency. He had a party in the convent (fn. 689) and influential friends outside (fn. 690); moreover, he could best put right the financial difficulty he had created. The affair is discreditable to St. Albans in any case, for if Wallingford was blameless, one or more of the monks must have been guilty of gross slander.
In 1454 the monastery was threatened with the loss of Pembroke Priory through Parliament's confirmation of the earldom of Pembroke to Jasper Tudor, (fn. 691) and of Burston through Charlton's action while Speaker of the Commons, (fn. 692) but Wheathampstead managed to avert both dangers. (fn. 693)
St. Albans on 22 May 1455 (fn. 694) was the scene of one of the most important battles of the Civil War. The town was pillaged by the northern followers of the victorious Duke of York; the abbey, however, was spared. (fn. 695) Its escape, ascribed by the chronicler to the fact that the king had not by lodging there compromised its neutrality, (fn. 696) was probably due to the monastery's connexion with the late Duke of Gloucester and its supposed inclination in consequence to the side of the Duke of York, Humphrey's political heir. If Wheathampstead could not rely at all on the duke's favour, he merits greater praise for doing what no one else dared, asking the duke to allow his former enemies to be buried. (fn. 697) Permission was immediately given, and the bodies of three Lancastrian nobles were brought in by the monks and interred in the Lady chapel. (fn. 698)
The Act of Resumption of 1456 caused the abbot some anxiety: the prior sent to the Parliament to guard the abbey's interests as to the clerical tenth, had a proviso inserted in the Act, but discovered afterwards that it was invalid; the end was only achieved by a fresh grant in November 1457. (fn. 699)
The reconciliation between the two parties on 24 March 1458 was of direct benefit to the monastery in so much as the Yorkists were to pay £45 a year to the convent for masses for the Lancastrians buried at St. Albans. (fn. 700) The king seems to have come immediately afterwards to the abbey to spend Easter and stayed three weeks. (fn. 701) On 20 June he came again for six days, and on 29 August for nearly six weeks. (fn. 702) His offerings (fn. 703) on these occasions undoubtedly did not represent the whole advantage derived by the house: it was by royal letters that John Cheyne this year was induced to make terms with the abbot over a rent from land in Chalfont St. Giles, which he had refused to pay for ten years. (fn. 704) The next year Henry broke his journey north here on 7 May, and at his departure presented to the abbey his best robe, redeemed by the treasurer at once for 50 marks. (fn. 705)
John de Hertford's days are recalled by the king's visits and by the way the convent was kept in touch with important outside movements and affairs. To St. Albans in 1457 came the Hungarian priest with news of the defeat of the Turks by Hunyadi (fn. 706); at St. Albans kindly hospitality was extended to the three monks sent from Cluny in 1458 to petition the king to restore to them the houses of their order (fn. 707); and here in 1459 the pope's legate made a short stay when on his way to seek the king's support of the proposed Council at Mantua. (fn. 708)
This side of the abbey life seems to end abruptly with the second battle of St. Albans, 17 February 1461, and the terrible blow then inflicted on the prestige of the monastery. The abbot begged the king to save the town and abbey from spoliation, but Henry's proclamation forbidding the troops to plunder was unavailing ; and if the queen had power to control her forces she lacked the will. (fn. 709) The northerners sacked the town, emptied the convent's granaries and cellars, and departed leaving desolation behind them. So complete was the destitution that the monks had to separate for a time, and the abbot, with a diminished household, betook himself to the seclusion of Wheathampstead. (fn. 710) It is not surprising that the author of the Register welcomed the accession of Edward IV. The abbot's first care in the new reign was to get a re-grant of Pembroke Priory, which would otherwise have been lost under the Act of Resumption of 1461, and this he secured in December (fn. 711) through the friendly offices of the chancellor, George Nevill. (fn. 712) In November 1462 he also obtained charters similar to those of 1440 and 1447. (fn. 713) Wheathampstead, who had probably been long in bad health, died in January 1465 (fn. 714) much regretted by the monks. (fn. 715) He had treated the convent generously in acquitting them of a debt of over £220 ; and he appears to have been considerate to his impoverished tenants. (fn. 716)
He made additions to the property of St. Albans, which attest his thoughtfulness for the abbey's welfare. (fn. 717) He also carried out his former intention of building a library, (fn. 718) made a new bakehouse, apparently a model of its kind, (fn. 719) and put stained glass in the cloisters. (fn. 720) The chapel of St. Andrew was entirely rebuilt by him, (fn. 721) and the ornaments of the church increased, notably by some works of art in silver-gilt. (fn. 722) The purchase of an organ, which from its cost, viz., £50, (fn. 723) was immeasurably superior to any instrument hitherto set up at the abbey, illustrates again Wheathampstead's cult of music.
William Albone, the prior, whose election had been proposed in 1451, now became abbot. (fn. 724) He was a native of St. Albans, and was reputed a gifted and cultivated man, generous in character and works. (fn. 725) As known and acceptable to various great persons he had been entrusted by Wheathampstead in 1455 with the negotiations for the exemption of St. Albans from the Act of Resumption. (fn. 726)
He seems to have been interested in learning : in December 1465 he was asked to find a prior for the Benedictine students at Cambridge (fn. 727); and in 1469 he presented a young man, whom he had educated from a boy, to the living of St. Michael's that he might have the means to study at Oxford. (fn. 728)
Visitations of the abbey were made by the Abbot of Peterborough in 1465, and by the Abbot of Eynsham in 1468, (fn. 729) but the results are not recorded. Albone's gifts to the church were valued at 600 marks, (fn. 730) and he acquired property for the abbey worth £66 a year (fn. 731); but on the other hand at his death in July 1476 he left debts amounting to £1,830. (fn. 732)
The burden on the house may have been the determining cause of the unanimous election of William Wallingford, (fn. 733) who had a gift for finance. If there had been any scandal connected with him, it was many years before, and had certainly made no difference to his career : he had continued to hold office under Wheathampstead, and had been made prior by Albone. (fn. 734) He had to his credit the accomplishment of expensive works and payment of debts, (fn. 735) and the education of ten young religious at his own cost. (fn. 736)
He inaugurated his abbacy with much splendour, giving two great banquets, one at Tyttenhanger, and another at St. Albans, which he entered accompanied by a train of 440 servants and tenants. (fn. 737) Outwardly the abbey might be unchanged. In reality its position had been much altered by the Civil Wars, so that for its security the conciliation of those in power became an ever-increasing necessity. This seems the meaning of the grants of nominations to benefices begun by Wheathampstead (fn. 738) and continued by Albone and Wallingford, (fn. 739) and the bestowal of the office of steward on one of the dominant political faction. (fn. 740) The same policy caused Wallingford's confirmation of Richard Lamplew as Prior of Hertford for life in 1484 at the request of the Chancellor, Chief Justice, Sir William Say and William Catesby. (fn. 741) It may also account in part for Wallingford's conduct with regard to Tynemouth Priory. The abbot promised the Duke of Gloucester and Sir John Say that Nicholas Boston, Archdeacon of St. Albans, should be Prior of Tynemouth when John Langton died or retired (fn. 742); on 15 March 1477-8 he removed Langton for rebelling against a visitation, (fn. 743) and in May made Boston prior for life. (fn. 744) On 8 May 1480, as the result of disclosures at a visitation held by Langton and William Dixwell, (fn. 745) Prior of Binham, as it was said, Boston was deposed by the abbot and replaced by Dixwell. (fn. 746) In September Wallingford authorized Dixwell to inquire into Boston's conduct, and after a short interval requested the Bishop of Durham to arrest the ex-prior as an apostate. (fn. 747) About ten weeks later he had to order another visitation of the priory owing to the mutual recriminations of Dixwell and Boston. (fn. 748) On 8 March 1482-3 Dixwell, again Prior of Binham, accused himself of having procured Boston's deposition and destroyed the deed giving him his post for life, and asked that his opponent might have a new grant of his office in perpetuity. (fn. 749) The object of the confession seems to have been to exculpate Wallingford for the past proceedings. Boston, however, must still have felt unsafe until the convent's seal as well as the abbot's was affixed to the fresh grant, and on 19 November this was done at the request of King Richard. (fn. 750)
The abbot's course looks bad from any point of view. The discovery of Langton's unfitness just then was too convenient not to be suspicious, and if his removal was warranted, he was unsuitable as a visitor. For the same reason Boston's deprivation and re-appointment cannot both be justified; and in any case he was treated most unfairly. Moreover, Wallingford was guilty either of using Dixwell to oust Boston by indefensible means, or of entrusting authority to a man convicted on his own confession of intrigues for his own advantage.
It is unlikely that the weakness or lack of principle so manifest here was displayed in this instance only, and the easiest explanation of the list of the abbot's good works attested by the prior and convent in August 1484 (fn. 751) is that it was intended as a defence against actual or anticipated attacks on Wallingford's administration. (fn. 752)
In April 1487 John Rothbury, the archdeacon, went to Rome to ask for certain additional privileges: among other things that the abbot and his successors might confer holy orders on monks of the abbey and cells, and on seculars of their jurisdiction, and also confirm children born within that area, and that the exemption of St. Albans might be declared to extend to pleas in the Court of Arches. (fn. 753) This attempt to secure absolute ecclesiastical independence, unsuccessful owing to the opposition of the cardinals and bishops, (fn. 754) argues unmistakable apprehension of episcopal and archiepiscopal activities, and may thus afford a clue to the date of the suit brought against the abbot in the Court of Arches by the Prioress of Sopwell, (fn. 755) to be referred to later. Her case subsequently came before the archbishop as Chancellor, and undoubtedly helped to give him an unfavourable opinion of Wallingford and his monks. Some move on Morton's part, probably his warning to the abbot to amend what was wrong, (fn. 756) made Wallingford think the abbey's exemption in danger, for on 6 February 1490 he procured a papal bull which ordered the archbishop to protect the privileges of St. Albans. (fn. 757) Morton, however, on 6 March was commissioned by papal bull to visit exempt monasteries, and under its powers he wrote on 5 July to the abbot threatening him with a visitation unless within thirty days the abuses reported to exist at St. Albans (fn. 758) were reformed. The abbot was accused of simony and usury, and of being so remiss in his rule and in his administration of goods that regular observances had been given up, hospitality and alms had decreased, and daily diminished, and not a few of the monks led dissolute lives, defiling even God's temples by intercourse with nuns; the abbot is said to have admitted as a nun into the house of Pré and made prioress a married woman named Helen Germyn who had previously left her husband to live in adultery, and he had taken no measures against her guilty intimacy with Thomas Sudbury, (fn. 759) one of his monks ; he had also not corrected other monks who resorted to the nunnery for immoral purposes; he had changed the Prioresses of Sopwell at his caprice, and both here and at Pré had deposed the good and religious and promoted the idle and vicious; he had moreover appointed as wardens of those houses monks who had dissipated their goods; he had dilapidated the property of the monastery and cells, sold the jewels and cut down wood to the value of 8,000 marks and more ; the monks neglected divine service ; some consorted with harlots even in the precincts of the abbey, others to pay for promotion had stolen the jewels of the church and robbed the very shrine and had not been punished.
On 11 July the abbey's proctor represented to the pope that St. Albans had peculiar privileges as to exemption from visitation, and asked and obtained his protection for the monastery pending its appeal. (fn. 760) The case was submitted to two papal chaplains, and by their advice Morton on 30 July received special faculties to deal with St. Albans. (fn. 761) Whether he acted on them, however, is not known. (fn. 762) In the absence of the information that the account of an inquiry (fn. 763) or injunctions would have afforded, the truth or falsehood of the charges in the letter or 'monition' remains a question of inference and probability.
Abbot Gasquet (fn. 764) considers that the actual facts about Wallingford and the abbey at this period make the charges incredible. He relies upon the assumption that Wallingford was good because he erected the beautiful high altar screen at the abbey, which is no evidence of moral character; that he fostered education, when he really only barely fulfilled the abbey's obligation; that the inquiries at Pré and Sopwell in 1480 were thorough, but of this there is no evidence; that he was appointed in 1480 visitor of the Benedictine houses of the Lincoln diocese, which only shows that he was of good fame at that particular date. He thinks that the charges of the monition are so sweeping that they suggest the purely formal attribution of crimes in a general pardon; and says further that it would have been impossible to read in public the eulogy of Wallingford contained in the Obit Book if it had been untrue and he had been a villain and spendthrift as he is sometimes depicted.
But the actual ground for one of Morton's charges appears in a petition in Chancery. (fn. 765) Elizabeth Webbe, the Prioress of Sopwell appointed in March 1480-1, had brought a suit in the Court of Arches for unjust removal and had won; on reassuming her position she had been beaten by the archdeacon's deputies and thrown into prison. There was evidently foundation also for the report about Pré, for shortly before Michaelmas Helen ceased to be prioress, (fn. 766) and her successor seems to have been chosen from Sopwell. (fn. 767) These two cases are a gauge of the credibility of the other accusations. The changes at Pré, indeed, as showing the need for reform at the nunnery are a presumption against the innocence of the monks who were said to share the nuns' guilt. This was not the only time the monks had been mentioned in connexion with the communities of women near the abbey. Years before Wheathampstead had had to forbid visits without leave to these nunneries. (fn. 768) With relaxation of discipline, therefore, trouble in this direction might be expected. Wallingford, as the Tynemouth affair proves, was to say the least careless about the fitness of those to whom he gave office, so that it is very unlikely that the monks were kept under proper control. It need hardly be said that ill-considered appointments to office made the maladministration of the dependent houses probable.
The actual sins of commission attributed to him are usury, simony and waste of the abbey's property for immediate gain. Years before, it may be observed, the author of the so-called register had declared him guilty of usury and peculation. But putting this aside, he had been accused in Chancery of sharp practice and dishonesty. A certain William Browning had said that the evidence of his holding had been erased from the Court Rolls so that the abbot might seize his lands (fn. 769); in another instance a lease had been granted by Wallingford to Edward Leventhorp, with Lord Hastings as trustee, and after the death of the two men the abbot tried to get the lease from Lady Hastings to the detriment of the owner, the lessee's former wife (fn. 770) ; proceedings against Wallingford were also instituted by the executors of a will about some goods which had been deposited by the testator in Pré nunnery, and had been seized by the archdeacon and kept by the abbot. (fn. 771)
It will be generally allowed that a man who laid himself open to this kind of charge gave cause for the belief that he had no scruples where his own profit was concerned. As to the notice of him in the Obit Book, (fn. 772) it describes what he had done for the abbey as archdeacon, prior, and kitchener, then relates that as abbot within fourteen years he had paid his predecessor's debts, made the screen valued at 1,100 marks, finished the chapter-house at a cost of £1,000, expended £100 on the church, £100 on the endowment of a weekly mass in honour of the name of Jesus, £60 on making a mitre and two pastoral staves, £100 on building his chapel and sepulchre; he had also incurred heavy expenses in defence of the abbey's immunities against the Archbishop of Canterbury ; yet in spite of all this he left the monastery free from all debt. These were works for which the convent owed him praise; but they do not make his neglect of discipline and the consequent disorders at St. Albans impossible, nor preclude his raising money by unlawful or wasteful methods.
Wallingford appears to have died just before 20 June 1492. (fn. 773)
Of Thomas Ramryge, (fn. 774) who succeeded him, it is almost impossible to form a clear estimate. A very unfavourable opinion of him might be drawn from various petitions in Chancery. Between 1493 and 1500 John Harpesfield accused the abbot of detaining from him documents relating to the entail of Harpesfield Manor (fn. 775); Robert Newbury said that he had been deprived without cause of the post of keeper of the gaol of the liberty and porter of the abbey conferred on him for life in 1484 (fn. 776); and Ralph Ferrers, master of St. Julian's, complained that Ramryge, in order to put him out of the hospital, had asked to see his letters of collation and refused to give them back, and now detained from him the revenues of his house (fn. 777) ; in 1500 or 1501 the Prioress and nuns of Sopwell declared that the warden of their house had for a bribe altered a lease to their disadvantage. (fn. 778)
Yet in two out of the three cases brought against Ramryge personally, right may not have been on the plaintiff's side. According to the abbot, Newbury had been guilty of misdemeanours in his office, and if so his removal was necessary for the sake of the abbey. (fn. 779) For the attempted deprivation of Ferrers, dilapidation was the alleged (fn. 780) and probably the real cause. (fn. 781) But if Ramryge's aim was justifiable, neither his methods nor his judgement can be commended. He seems to have acted under the advice of a Dr. William Robinson, to whom he had promised the post if Ferrers could be ousted. The result, as far as he himself was concerned, was the suit in Chancery brought by Ferrers, who remained in possession until his death, and proceedings against him later in the Star Chamber for riot on Robinson's accusation. (fn. 782)
Henry VII arranged in 1504 for the perpetual observance of his anniversary at the abbey (fn. 783); but as he founded obits of the kind in seventeen other religious houses, (fn. 784) he showed in this matter no special favour to St. Albans.
Of Ramryge's activities and administration there is not much definite information. He undoubtedly bestowed some attention on the church and the services: he built a beautiful chapel which still exists, and was responsible also perhaps for paintings in the church (fn. 785); and during the early part of his abbacy the celebrated musician Robert Fairfax is said to have been organist at the monastery. (fn. 786)
The abbot was apparently straitened for money in 1511, since he was among those then put in suit for non-payment of debts to the late king. (fn. 787) Financial difficulties (fn. 788) were conceivably one reason why Cardinal Wolsey, who on 2 June 1519 had been made legatine visitor by the pope, (fn. 789) used his powers in October to appoint William Fresell, Prior of Rochester, coadjutor to Ramryge, then very old and infirm. (fn. 790) That this measure might be for the abbey's benefit is evident, but it is not easy to see what good Wolsey did by exempting Tynemouth during the life of its prior, John Stonywell, from the jurisdiction of St. Albans. (fn. 791)
Ramryge died early in November 1521, and Wolsey at once set about securing the abbey for himself. The king on hearing his wish (fn. 792) said he would rather give the abbey to him than to any monk, and immediately wrote to ask the pope that Wolsey might hold the monastery in commendam. (fn. 793) The appoint ment (fn. 794) was made simply to increase Wolsey's income with an almost cynical disregard for the monastery's rights and welfare. The cardinal's residence as head engaged in the administration of the house was out of the question, an occasional visit was all that could be expected. (fn. 795) Naturally the connexion with so powerful a person as Wolsey was not devoid of advantages. Before he held the abbey, it is said, the king's purveyors had been accustomed to have 300 or 400 qrs. of wheat yearly from the town and liberty, an infraction of the charter of Edward IV which Wolsey would not allow. (fn. 796) He intervened also on behalf of the privileges of the house when the clerk of the market of the king's hospice tried to exercise his functions in the town while Henry was staying at the abbey. (fn. 797) But the benefits received by the monastery, which were apparently all comprised in the cardinal's protection and the plate he presented to the convent, (fn. 798) sink into insignificance before the drawbacks of the position. So little attention was paid by Wolsey to the affairs of the house that in his time the abbey was involved in debts amounting to 4,000 marks through one of its officials, Robert Blakeney. (fn. 799) The utter selfishness of his attitude was strikingly displayed when he fell into disgrace. In 1529 he granted an annuity of 200 marks out of the abbey's lands to Viscount Rochford, Anne Boleyn's brother, (fn. 800) and if it be argued that in this matter he could not help himself, that excuse cannot be urged for his attempt to get a pension for himself from St. Albans. (fn. 801) He resigned the abbey to the king on 17 February 1530, (fn. 802) but the house was not treated as vacant until his death at the end of the year. (fn. 803)
Robert Catton, Prior of Norwich, became abbot in March 1531. (fn. 804) A condition of the appointment to the abbacy seems to have been the cession of La Moor Manor to the Crown, (fn. 805) and this was done in September by the abbot, (fn. 806) who received in exchange the property of the priories of Pré and Wallingford which had been suppressed by Wolsey. An annual fair of three days at St. Albans and the advowsons of the church of Aston Rowant and chapel of Stokenchurch, co. Oxon., granted by Henry to the abbey in October 1532, (fn. 807) may have been intended to make the bargain fairer.
Catton, though ready enough to oblige those in authority, offered some resistance to the attempt made in 1534 to obtain the fee farm of one of the monastery's manors for William Cavendish, Cromwell's servant. Such a grant, he told Cromwell, might cause a claim from the donor's heirs and the loss of the manor to the abbey; if this difficulty were overcome, he would do what Cromwell wanted. (fn. 808) The indenture was drawn up, but Cavendish in the end was baulked by the convent, who, in spite of Dr. Lee's persuasions, refused to seal a deed so prejudicial to their house. (fn. 809)
The religious changes had some supporters at the abbey: the archdeacon was praised to Cromwell in the spring of 1535 as one of the only two in the liberty to manifest the full truth in their preaching. (fn. 810) But it is not likely that many were as ardent as he in the cause, or the monastery would have had a better report from John ap Rice, who with others visited it for the king in October. (fn. 811) He merely states that 'they found little at St. Albans, altho' there were much to be found.' (fn. 812) This grudging admission that no scandals had been discovered is good evidence that the convent as to morals was impeccable. Probably little fault could have been found too with the standard of culture there. Six of the community were at Oxford in 1529-30, (fn. 813) and Leland mentions that when he visited the abbey (about 1535) the treasures of the library were displayed to him by a monk of polished learning, much given to the study of all past ages. (fn. 814) The monastery deserves some credit, moreover, for the printing done at St. Albans between 1534 and 1538, for John Hertford had his press in the precincts of the abbey, and published certainly one book at the abbot's request. (fn. 815) Where the house was unsatisfactory was on its financial side, and after the visitation and the rules then imposed, as regards the relations of the abbot and monks. Catton told Cromwell on 22 January 1536 (fn. 816) that his position was 'so intricate with extreme penury, daily calling of the old debts of the house, daily reparations as well within the monastery as without, and most of all encumbered with an uncourteous flock of brethren,' that it was impossible for him to continue in such a case, and he asked for relaxations of some injunctions. Shortly before or after this letter the prior and seventeen monks wrote to Sir Francis Brian, (fn. 817) saying that they had begged the abbot to devise a remedy for the decay and misery of the abbey, but he had taken it ill, and they had therefore applied to Brian to bring about the desired reforms through Cromwell, the visitor-general. They asked that the abbot should not be permitted to make Robert Blakeney receiver-general, as he was most unfit for the office; that he might not waste or sell the convent's woods without their consent, and that sales lately made might be stopped; that he should show how much more or less the monastery was in debt than when he became abbot; that the convent might not be forced to use its seal to the detriment of the house, especially for borrowing 'any two thousand pounds or other large sums' until the old debts were cleared off; and finally that those who had petitioned the abbot might not be punished for it and expelled. On 9 April 1536 Richard Stevenage, the chamberlain, appealed to Brian again for help, (fn. 818) saying that if he did not interfere the abbot would punish them severely; that he himself was to lose his office, for the abbot had forbidden the tenants to pay any more rents to him, and 'though this were grievous to him and contrary to the king's injunctions, he would be ready to suffer if the monastery prospered and were well ordered, which can never be so long as the abbot can do as he will'; finally he suggested that 'a discreet and circumspect brother' should be appointed coadjutor.
Catton may not inspire admiration, he was not a hero, (fn. 819) but he is more deserving of respect than his detractors, some of whom a few months later were informing against the third prior, William Ashwell, (fn. 820) to curry favour with Cromwell.
They reported that Ashwell, talking of Queen Anne when she was in the Tower, said that he trusted 'ere Michaelmas Master Secretary would be in the same case, and that he would jeopard all he was worth to see that day, for he and she were maintainers of all heresies and newfangledness'; secondly, that while Ashwell and others were in the oriel at dinner Stevenage complained of their fare, which was neither good nor wholesome, contrary to the king's statutes, and Ashwell had said, 'What should we pass upon these statutes which be made by a sort of light-brained merchants and heretics, Cromwell being one of the chief of them,' and when ordered by Stevenage and others to be silent he added, 'Why should we pass upon them that purpose to destroy our religion, let us pass upon the old customs and usages of our house'; thirdly, that at the shaving-house door he had questioned a young man named Newman who wanted to leave the monastery, asking him by what authority he would depart; Newman said, by the king's authority, since all under twenty-two years of age were to remain no longer in religion, and he was kept there against the king's commandment and his own will; to this Ashwell rejoined, 'I marvel that you pass upon that commandment which was not heard of this thousand year before the king hath done it of his high power, contrary to the law of God and man both, for there is no man can say against him'; fourthly, that at supper in the prior's chamber one night the conversation turning on the suppression of the religious houses, Ashwell had said that if the king reigned seven years longer he meant to leave only four churches in England; lastly, that he had disclosed secrets of the confessional.
Of the nine witnesses examined 24-8 August 1536, (fn. 821) one only, Thomas Newman, swore to the whole truth of the first four articles, another swore to two and one to the fourth; two had heard Ashwell say something like the first; Stevenage denied the first and third articles, could not vouch for time and place as regards the fourth, and gave the following account of the incident mentioned in the second: some of those dining in the frater came into the oriel during refection, and said they would like some of that meat because theirs was not good; Stevenage remarked that by one of the king's injunctions, which he thought ought to be kept, they should all dine together and have the same food; Ashwell then said, 'As for the king's injunctions I pray you who made them but a sort of light persons and heretics? Let us keep well our old statutes as others have done before us'; to which Stevenage replied, 'I think the statutes were made by the king's council, therefore I pray let us talk of other matters.' Ashwell, as to the second, affirmed that all he had said was that 'neither the king nor his council will break any laudable customs of our monastery or do anything to the hindrance of good religion'; he denied the first, third and fourth, but had heard several say that only four religious houses should be left; and he declared the allegation about the confession to be false.
The affair looks rather like a continuation of the intrigue against the abbot, the move this time being to discredit and cow his party. Catton was undoubtedly well disposed to Ashwell, (fn. 822) whose adversaries were the same as his. Eight out of the nine witnesses called against Ashwell were the abbot's opponents, and the one exception, Guynett, gave evidence most damaging to the informers.
The appointment by Cromwell of Stevenage as prior in the autumn of 1537 (fn. 823) boded no good to Catton. On 10 December Lee and Petre made a visitation of the monastery, and reported (fn. 824) that the abbot, from the examination of the monks and his own confession, could be justly deprived for breaking the king's injunctions and for dilapidations and negligent administration, but he refused to entertain the idea of surrendering the house, (fn. 825) declaring that he would rather beg his bread all the days of his life. They asked Cromwell whether they had better remove him at once, when the house being in such debt none would take it except for the purpose of surrender, or whether they should delay sentence and leave him in suspense until he should give the abbey into the king's hands in order to assure himself a living. The former course was adopted. Catton was deposed, and the convent compromitted the election to Cromwell, (fn. 826) who in April 1538 made Stevenage abbot. (fn. 827)
The ex-abbot is mentioned again in connexion with his supplanter, for Stevenage in September declined to seal an indenture providing for Catton, on the ground that it differed from the agreement made between them before Cromwell, and insinuated that Catton was trying to get an advantage over him. (fn. 828)
The visitors had not underrated the pecuniary embarrassments of the house. The new abbot was actually detained a prisoner by Gostwyke, the collector of the king's tenths, and wrote to Cromwell that he had offered to pay £300, the utmost he could raise, but was utterly unable to meet Gostwyke's demand for firstfruits. (fn. 829) The weight of debt was becoming unbearable.
An incident which occurred in October 1539 seems also significant, though in another way. Stevenage, in obedience to Cromwell's letters, then sent to him 'John Pryntare,' in company with three stationers of London, 'to order him at your pleasure,' and promised that he would search for copies of the little book of detestable heresies that the stationers had showed him. (fn. 830) The end was not far off when heretical books were being printed at St. Albans, probably within the monastic inclosure. (fn. 831) The abbey was, in fact, surrendered on 5 December. (fn. 832) Stevenage, or Boreman, as he is henceforth called, was given a pension of £266 13s. 4d. a year, and all the monks also received annuities. (fn. 833)
The convent at this time numbered thirtyeight, including the prior. Like others, it had decreased in the course of years. At the end of the 12th century John de Cella had fixed the maximum number of brothers at 100, unless there was special reason to receive anyone further. (fn. 834) Whether this number was ever attained before the Black Death is doubtful; it certainly was not reached afterwards. In 1380 the community at St. Albans, not counting the abbot and prior, comprised 52 professed, 2 novices and 2 lay brothers (fn. 835); there were 51 brothers besides the prior at the abbey in 1396, (fn. 836) 54 in 1401, (fn. 837) 46 in 1451, (fn. 838) 48 or 49 in 1476, (fn. 839) at least 54 in 1492, (fn. 840) and 48 with 6 others at Oxford in 1529-30. (fn. 841)
Boreman, who bought the site of the abbey from Sir Richard Lee in November 1551 (fn. 842) for the grammar school he had been authorized to establish, (fn. 843) made it over in December 1556 to Queen Mary, no doubt for the refoundation of the monastery, (fn. 844) but nothing further is heard of the project.
The income of the abbey was reckoned in the Valor of 1535 as £2,102 7s. 1¾d. clear. (fn. 845) Of its extensive possessions the largest amount lay in the county of Hertford, where in 1303 and 1401 the abbot held six knights' fees in the hundred of Cashio. (fn. 846) From the episode of the fight at St. Albans in 1142, when King Stephen captured William de Mandeville, it appears that the holders of land by military tenure under the abbey at that time had quarters within the precincts to defend it when necessary. (fn. 847) The knights of St. Alban, it is related, offered valiant resistance to the king until he made satisfaction to the church for its violation by his followers. One of the knights sent by Abbot Roger in 1277 to Worcester for the war against the Welsh was Sir Stephen de Chenduit, (fn. 848) while John de Gorham, William Tolomer and Richard Baccheworthe are mentioned among the six knights who went to Carlisle in 1299-1300 to do service for Abbot John de Berkhampstead. (fn. 849)
The convent, as has been already mentioned, had their own possessions apart from the abbot. The separation of property seems to have been a gradual process. Before the Conquest one or two estates (fn. 850) had already been allotted for special purposes, but these were probably exceptions. In the early part of the 12th century the abbot and convent seem to have received their maintenance from the same property, the revenues being divided between them in a fixed proportion. (fn. 851) Shortly afterwards, however, the various offices of the obedientiaries began to be endowed with separate estates. Thus Abbot Geoffrey gave to the office of kitchener the manor of 'Esole' (fn. 852) (St. Albans Court in Nonington, Kent) and Abbot Ralph Gubiun the manor of Shephall (fn. 853) (Herts.). The offices of sacrist, (fn. 854) hostillar, chamberlain, refectorer, infirmarer and almoner (fn. 855) each received its own estate, which was augmented from time to time. An important readjustment of property was made in 1363 by Abbot Thomas de la Mare. (fn. 856) The kitchener's office was then especially needy, (fn. 857) for its income was £181 and its expenses £255 8s. 8d. The abbot reduced its charges about £51 a year by relieving it of the pensions payable to four scholars at Oxford and four monks at Redbourn, and of the maintenance of seven monks at the abbey; while he increased its permanent revenues about the same amount by an allotment of lands. He effected, too, various rearrangements of the possessions of other obedientiaries.
In 1529-30 (fn. 858) all the offices (fn. 859) were sequestrated, and the monks were receiving stipends: the prior £40, the sub-prior £11, 47 brothers sums ranging from £8 13s. 4d. to £6 13s. 4d., the total amounting to £416 13s. 4d. Six students at Oxford had each £10. The expenses for illness (fn. 860) were £30 17s. 11d. Fees and wages, such as to the chief steward, solicitor, the abbot's secretary, the organist (fn. 861) of the church and others cost £74 13s. 6d. The household servants received £43 16s. They numbered thirty-five, and included a clerk of the kitchen and three engaged in the work of the kitchen, two butlers, three poor men to assist the brothers celebrating mass, an attendant for the sick, another for one particular invalid, the prior's carver, butler and the keeper of his horses, two brewers, people making the monks' clothes, and washing the linen of the convent and church, the keeper of the church clock and bells, and of the convent's firewood in the oriel. Liveries due to officers and servants were reckoned separately and cost £75 10s. 4d. Alms on anniversaries and for the soul of King Offa came to £2; diet of 12 poor men praying daily for King Offa's soul, £17 12s. 8½d.; payments to the king and pope, £48 1s.; annuities, £138 19s. 4d.; cutting and carting wood for the convent's use, £45 13s. 0½d.; mowing and making hay, £7 8s. 10d.; shoeing the convent's horses, £14 os. 8d.; purchases of wax, oil and wine, £19 18s. 7d.; repairs, £105 2s. 3d. Under necessaries, which cost £55 15s. 1½d., are included charcoal for the dormitory, expenses of the justices in time of session, cleansing the stream and ditch, mending the organs, molecatching, cords for the bells, mowing nettles round the monastery, &c., the largest outlay being £9 7s. 2d. for candles. The money spent that year amounted altogether to £1,203 0s. 5½d. The house must have been rich in treasures. (fn. 862) At the Dissolution the gold of its brooches and rings weighed 122½ oz.; of silver-gilt plate it had 2,990 oz., of parcel gilt 680 oz. and of white plate 354 oz. (fn. 863)
Abbots of St. Albans
Willigod, (fn. 864) 793, died 796
Wulsig, 9th century
Wulnoth, probably early 10th century
Eadfrith, 10th century
Wulsin, mid-10th century
Ælfric, c. 968, made Bishop of Ramsbury 990, Archbishop of Canterbury 995
Leofric, 990, died c. 1007
Ealdred, c. 1007
Eadmar, living 1045
Leofstan, surnamed 'Plumstan,' c. 1048, died 1066
A pointed oval seal of the 12th century (fn. 929) represents St. Alban seated on a carved throne, with his feet on a small footstool; he holds a long cross in his right hand and in his left a globe and a palm-branch. Legend:
SIGILLUM: S[anct]I ALBANI: ANGLOR[um] P[.]TOMARTIRIS
The seal of Abbot Simon (fn. 930) (1167-83), also a pointed oval, shows the abbot arrayed in vestments and mitre, standing on a platform, with a crozier in his right hand and in his left a book.
The seal of Abbot John de Hertford is attached to a charter of 1258. (fn. 931) On the obverse, a pointed oval, is depicted the abbot, mitre on head, raising his right hand in benediction and holding in his left, from which hangs a maniple, a pastoral staff. All that remains of the legend is the letters
. . . . . . . . . ALBAN . . .
The counterseal, a smaller pointed oval, shows the martyrdom of St. Alban and the headsman's eyes falling into his left hand; above a hand issuing from clouds holds a crown above the saint's head. Legend:
MARTIR OBIT VICTOR PRIVATVR LVMINE LICTOR
The seal of Abbot Thomas de la Mare appended to a document of 1389 (fn. 932) is of pointed oval shape. The abbot, who wears a mitre and embroidered vestments, stands in a carved niche under a triple canopy; he has in his right hand his crozier and holds in the other a richly ornamented book. In a small canopied niche above is a representation of the martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury. On tabernacle work at each side and between two flowering branches is an elaborately cusped panel containing on the left St. Alban's head with a sword across the neck, on the right a bust, probably of St. Amphibalus; the field is powdered with roundels. The corbel is adorned with a carved string-course and foliage. Legend:
. . . OME: DEI: GRA: ABBATIS: MONASTERII: S[anct]I;: ALBANI
A seal of the early 16th century, (fn. 933) probably belonging to Abbot Thomas Ramryge, shows our Lord enthroned and blessing, between two small canopied niches, that on the left containing a saint, the other a king wearing a crown and ermine tippet and holding a sceptre and orb. The legend is missing.
There is a fine but imperfect seal ad causas of the 14th century in style, but attached to a charter of 1510. (fn. 934) It depicts in a carved and canopied niche the martyrdom of St. Alban with the miracle of the executioner's eyes. In the base, upon masonry, is a shield of the arms of the abbey. Legend:
M[ARTIR: OB]IT: VICTOR: PRIUATUR: LUM[INE: LICTOR]