The Burton Chartulary.
Burton was a Benedictine Abbey, founded between A.D. 1002 and
A.D. 1004 (fn. 1) by Wulfric Spott, who endowed it, according to the
"Annals of Burton," with the whole of his possessions. The date and
magnitude of the endowment, which took place shortly after the
general massacre of the Danes, who, unsuspicious of danger, were
dwelling peaceably within the Saxon territories, makes it not
improbable that it was the result of the remorse felt by one of the
ministers of King Ethelred for his share in that treacherous
transaction. The King's confirmation of Wulfric's grant is the first
deed in the Chartulary, and is dated A.D. 1004. The Church was
dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Saint Modwen, an Irish
female anchorite, who had dwelt for many years on one of the
islands of the Trent near Burton.
Like all the Saxon foundations, Burton was greatly shorn of
its splendour by the Norman Conquest. Of seventy-two manors
named in Wulfric's will, there remained to the monks at the date
of Domesday thirty-two only, and seven of these had been given
to them by the Conqueror. (fn. 2)
The great reduction in the revenues of the religious houses of
Saxon foundation after the Conquest, was not owing so much to
the rapacity of the Normans, as to the policy of the Conqueror.
These monasteries had amassed enormous possessions during that
superstitious era immediately preceding the close of the eleventh
century, and these were held by them for the most part free from
all secular obligations.
The Conqueror, with a view of increasing the military strength
of the Kingdom, which had been greatly impaired by the alienation
of so much land to religious uses, subjected the monastic possessions to the feudal law, and compelled the monks to furnish a
certain number of Knights in time of war, or to relinquish a part
of their endowments. The monks of Burton appear to have
chosen the latter alternative, for none of the tenants of this
monastery after the Conquest held their lands by military service.
In this they probably acted wisely, for monastic bodies derived
little or no benefit from lands in which military tenants were
enfeoffed. The feudal obligations such as the aid on the knighthood of the eldest son, or on the marriage of the eldest daughter of
the feudal lord, were obviously inapplicable in the case of a
religious superior, and the only benefit which accrued to an
ecclesiastical lord in the case of military tenures was the rare and
uncertain contingency of the wardship of a minor; and against
this advantage had to be placed certain undefined obligations, for
in most, if not in all cases, the great religious houses paid the
expenses of their Knights when in the service of the King. (fn. 3)
The manors or lands in possession of the monks at the date of
Burton and its members, Branstone, Shobnall, Stretton in
Burton, Horninglowe and Wetmoor; Anslow, Pillatonhall,
Whiston (in Penkridge), Darlaston (in Stone), Abbots
Bromley, Leigh and Field, Ilam, Okeover and Casterne,
Hampton in Blithfield, and land in Tatenhill and Stafford
In Derbyshire they held—
Cotes, Winshill, Bersicote (Brislingcote ?), Ticknall, Stapenhill, Appelby, Cauldwell, Mickleover, Littleover, Henover
(Heanor), Finden, Portlock, and Willington.
Austrey, and land in Wolston.
The above list is taken from the Confirmation of Pope Lucius
at p. vii. of the Chartulary. (fn. 4) This specifies that all the lands
named in it had been given to the monks by their founder, Wulfric
Spott, or by William the Conqueror. These lands must therefore
have been in the possession of the monks at the date of the Survey,
but the list differs in some respects from the extant Domesday.
Some valuable manors such as Anslow in Staffordshire and
Willington in Derbyshire are not mentioned in the Survey; and it
is not unlikely that the monks either by interest or by bribery
had obtained the suppression of some of their estates in the Survey
as finally codified.
On one important point, however, I think they have been
maligned. Eyton states in his Staffordshire Domesday that they
had procured the suppression of the whole of their home estate of
Burton, amounting to nearly 6,000 acres. I am inclined to believe
that the following entry from Domesday refers to the abbatial
manor of Burton, and the other members of Burton are included
in the Domesday Survey.
Under the Hundred of Pirehill, it will be seen that Domesday
gives the following account of an estate of the Abbey in Stafford:—
In villâ de Stadford, Abbatia Sanctæ Mariæ de Bertone tenet
1 hidam et dimidiam. Terra est 2 carucatæ valet £3 10s.
The Burton Chartulary contains at folio 3 what purports to be
a copy of the Domesday Return of their estates. It is headed: Sic
continctur super Domesday apud Wintoniam.
Ecclesia Sanctæ Mariæ de Burtone in Staffordsire. In ipsâ villâ
habet hidam et dimidiam. Terra est 2 carucatæ valet xl. solidos.
It is not probable that the monks held so large an estate in the
town of Stafford, and we find no trace of it in after years; (fn. 5) the
error has arisen no doubt from a mistake of the clerk who compiled
the fair copy of the Survey, and who confounding Staffordsira with
Staffordia, has assumed that the words ipsa villa referred to
Stafford instead of Burton. The Hundreds are wrongly rubricated
in several other instances in the Survey. (fn. 6)
The Chartulary is essential for the history of the above named
places; but some of its contents have more than a local interest:
it contains for instance a nominal list of all the Burton tenants of
the time of the Abbot Nigel, who died A.D. 1113. Many of these
tenants must have been born before the Conquest, and all of them
within a few years after it. This part of the Chartulary has therefore an ethnological interest, for the names of these tenants supply
us approximately with the relative proportions of the Saxon and
Danish races in this part of the Kingdom. No doubt any assumption based on baptismal names only must be received with caution,
for these races had become much blended by inter-marriage by this
date; but it is impossible not to be struck by the large proportion
of Danish or Scandinavian names amongst the Burton tenantry;
and this tends to confirm an opinion which has been long held by
the writer, that men of Danish descent formed a very large proportion of the English race at the Norman Conquest, and that this
important political and ethnographical fact has not received sufficient
attention in recent histories of the English people.
The social habits and condition of the people receive many
illustrations in the pages of the Chartulary. Thus the "corrodium"
or allowance of food and clothing made by religious houses in
exchange for a gift of land, was the method by which an annuity was
secured in the middle ages, and the details of the charges on this
head throw some light on the mode of life and food of the middle
classes in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The legal proceedings (folios 86–93) between the monks and
their customary tenants of Mickle-Over, who claimed to be free
tenants, are very curious and interesting. Although the villains
were unsuccessful in their suit, they appear to have found influential
protectors, and on two occasions obtained access to King Edward I.
and laid their grievances in person before him.
The prosecution of the Abbot for appropriating the missing
treasury of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, attainted and beheaded A.D.
1323, is noteworthy, when taken in connection with the finding of a
large number of coins (over 100,000) in the River Dove near
Tuttebury in the year 1831. It is evident that the bulk of the
treasure had disappeared, and a part of it had been traced to the
possession of the monks. They were therefore suspected very
naturally of secreting the remainder. A mixed Staffordshire and
Derbyshire jury found the Abbot guilty, and a fine of £300 (fn. 7) was
set upon the monastery; which on appeal was afterwards remitted
by the King. The monks state that the jury was entirely composed of men badly disposed towards them; and this seems likely
to have been the case, for their rapacity and unjust encroachments
on their neighbours, of which their own Register affords many
examples, must have made them very unpopular with all classes.
The dates of the accession of the Abbots after the Conquest
according to the Annals of Burton are as follows:—
Leuric or Leveric, elected Abbot A.D. 1051, died A.D. 1085.
Geoffrey de Mala Terra, was deposed A.D. 1094.
Nigel, died in May, 1113.
Geoffrey, elected A.D. 1114, died A.D. 1150.
Robert, was deposed A.D. 1159.
Bernard, elected A.D. 1160, died A.D. 1175.
Robert his predecessor was re-appointed, and died A.D. 1177.
Roger Malebraunch, elected A.D. 1178, died May, 1182.
Richard, died A.D. 1188.
Nicholas, died A.D. 1197.
William de Melbourne, elected A.D. 1200, died A.D. 1210.
Roger, elected A.D. 1215, died A.D. 1216.
Nicholas de Walingford, died A.D. 1222.
Richard de Insula, elected June, 1222, died A.D. 1233.
Laurence de St. Edward, died A.D. 1260.
John de Stafford, elected July, 1260, resigned A.D. 1280.
Thomas de Pakinton, elected February, 1281, died October, 1305.
John Fisher, or de Stapenhull, died A.D. 1316.
William de Bromley, elected July, 1316, died A.D. 1329.
Robert de Longedon, elected September, 1330, died March, 1340.
Robert de Brykhull, elected March, 1341, died A.D. 1348.
John de Ibestock, elected A.D. 1348, died A.D. 1366.
Thomas de Southam, elected A.D. 1366, resigned A.D. 1400.
John de Sudbury, elected A.D. 1400, resigned A.D. 1423.
William Matthewe, resigned A.D. 1430.
Robert Ownesby, elected September, 1430, resigned Jan., 1432.
Ralph Henley, elected February, 1432, resigned A.D. 1455.
William de Bronston, died A.D. 1474.
Thomas de Felde, elected April, 1474, died A.D. 1494.
William Fleghe, elected A.D. 1494, died May, 1502.
William Bone or Beyne, elected A.D. 1502.
John Beaton or Boston, was Abbot up to A.D. 1534.
William Edys or Edes, elected 13th April, 1534, surrendered the
Abbey 14th November, 1539.
The Abbots were mitred and summoned to the House of Peers.
The Chartulary or Registrum Burtonense, in the possession of
the Marquis of Anglesey, and of which an abstract is now given,
is a quarto or small folio volume of 156 leaves of vellum bound in
white calfskin. It has no title page, but the word "Bourtoun" in
large old blackletter of the Tudor period can be deciphered with
some difficulty on the outside of the cover. The original Chartulary
is beautifully written in double columns, with red initial letters to
the paragraphs: the handwriting dating from the beginning of the
thirteenth to the end of the fourteenth century; but the blank sides
of the leaves have been filled in with writing of a later date, and
additional folios have likewise been interpolated, filled with writing
of a later period. These parts can readily be distinguished from the
original Chartulary, not only from the difference of the writing, but
also from the fact of the writing extending across the whole page
in place of the usual arrangement of double columns. They have
been shown in the abstract now printed by italic letters.
In the preparation of the abstract everything has been introduced which can be useful to a county historian, and in the case
of the Staffordshire manors I have left in any details which may
be of interest to the parish historian. All matter previously printed
in the "Monasticon" or in Shaw's "History of Staffordshire" has been
omitted, but reference has been made to these authorities whereever such matter occurs. In the Latin abstract the ipsissima rerba
of the original has been retained in every case, but I have thought
it best to put the narrative portions of the Chartulary into English.
This part of the Chartulary contains matter interesting to the
general reader, and few of our subscribers would care to peruse
it if left in its original Latin.