Thursday, March 31, 2016

Journey about 1220 through the Glastonbury Abbey estate

Journey about 1220 through the Glastonbury Abbey estate

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In about 1220 Hawysia Fitz James, sister of Master Henry Fitz James of Glastonbury, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.[1] This article records some events that occurred on the Glastonbury Abbey estates in the year she was away on pilgrimage. The research for this article is greatly facilitated by the three volumes of The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, edited by Dom Aelred Watkin for the Somerset Record Society (vol. 1 for S.R.S., vol. LIX, 1947; vol. II for S.R.S., vol. LXIII, 1952; vol. III for S.R.S., vol. LXIV, 1956). The three volumes provide a wealth of information on places, events and people across medieval Somerset and beyond.

Glastonbury Abbey

From 1200 to 1220 control of Glastonbury Abbey was in dispute between the Abbey and the Bishop of Bath in which diocese it was situated. In 1198 the election of William Pica was declared invalid and in 1199 Bishop Savaric of Bath had himself elected as abbot.[2] In 1200 Bishop Savaric of Bath united Glastonbury Abbey with the see of Bath and made Glastonbury a cathedral church. The monks of Glastonbury protested against the union and after the death of Savaric in 1205 King John took up their cause in the papal court. The Earls and Barons of England along with the Churches of Bath (the chapter said that Savaric acted against their wishes) and Wells (the chapter said that Savaric meant well) supported the restoration of Glastonbury. 

Pope Innocent III granted the monks leave to rescind the union as soon as a new bishop of Bath was appointed. But the Interdict of 1208-13 held up matters. In 1215 King John gave Bishop Jocelin of Bath the right to appoint an Abbot to Glastonbury and the right to have authority over the Abbey in the event of a vacancy.

In 1218 Pope Honorius III offered four options to end the union of Glastonbury and Bath. Bishop Jocelin rejected all four options and imposed his own solution without an agreement with Glastonbury. On 17th May 1219 Pope Honorius III wrote to Prior Eustace and the Convent of Glastonbury announcing that the union was dissolved following a meeting of all parties at Shaftesbury and that Glastonbury could elect an Abbot but the patronage of the Bishop of Bath was retained. On 16th February 1227 King Henry III confirmed to Bishop Jocelin the patronage of Glastonbury Abbey.[3]

Fruits of the churches dispute 1220

On 25th May 1219 Glastonbury got permission from Pope Honorius to take the whole fruits of the churches of their advowson for six years because the revenues of the Abbey were decreased owing to the agreement with Bishop Jocelin. But Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury objected to the workings of this Papal permission.

Both parties came to Bishop Jocelin of Bath to settle the issue. On 22nd November 1220 Bishop Jocelin decided that the Bishop of the diocese in which the church was situated should get one third of the fruits, Glastonbury to get half the fruits and the vicar the remaining sixth. But before this division of the fruits a sum should be set aside for the ordinary burdens of the church and the vicar was to manage this fund. Any pensions due to the monks were reserved to them. This agreement was to hold for six years from the occurrence of a vacancy in each church and the agreement was to operate in the Dioceses of Bath and Salisbury.[4]

Glastonbury Abbey ruins

The restored Abbot of Glastonbury

Meanwhile the Pope had granted permission to elect a new abbot and on 12th June 1219 Brother William of St. Vigor was made the new abbot. He held the position until his death in September 1223.[5]

After nearly twenty years without an Abbot, the ancient privileges of Glastonbury were downgraded by other religious houses. In April 1221 William of St. Vigor was abbot of Glastonbury when Bishop Jocelin of Bath held a synod. At the synod Robert, the Prior of Bath, was given precedence over Abbot William. Later in 1221 Prior Robert wrote to Abbot William to say that the situation did not affect the rights of either of them.[6]

In September 1223 Prior Robert was elected the new abbot of Glastonbury with the pressure of Bishop Jocelin. He was not well received by the monks and more unhappiness continued until 1234 when Robert resigned as abbot. By then the abbey was in serious debt. The new abbot, Michael de Ambresbury, slowly restored the standing of Glastonbury Abbey.[7]

The twenty year battle for power and money between Glastonbury abbey and the Bishop of Bath, along with the interdict of Pope Innocent, were possibly contributing factors in the decline of religious faith among the people in the early thirteenth century. The pilgrimage of Hawysia Fitz James to the Holy Land rather than just going to Canterbury or Rome was her way of restoring faith in religion. The interdict of Pope Innocent was imposed on England in March 1208 as King John fought against Rome for the control of the English church. The interdict prohibiting clergy from conducting religious services, with the exception of baptisms for the young, and confessions and absolutions for the dying. Religious practice was not restored until 1213.[8]

The Goldsmith house in Glastonbury

In about 1220 Alfred the Goldsmith of Ilchester, with the consent of his wife Lucy, and Henry, his heir, gave to William the Goldsmith of Glastonbury 12d yearly from a house in Glastonbury provided William paid annually 1lb of cumin to the Abbot and Convent of Athelney.[9]

Twenty four years later (c.1244) William the Goldsmith received from Walter the Porter a yearly rent of 18d which Walter received from the holding which was situated near that of Robert de Grecia. The rent was to be paid before the ninth hour on Hockday and at Michaelmas. The holding was formerly held by Richard Pasturel. For this grant William was to give Walter one mark.[10]

This holding and the documents associated with it take our history back into the twelfth century. Before 1180 William Pasturel, father of Richard, had purchased the holding from Heruald the Marshal who in turn had received it from Abbot Robert of Winchester. In about 1180 William Pasturel gave the property to Walter the Porter as a marriage portion with his daughter, Giliana.[11] In 1245 Walter the Porter resigned the office of porter to the Abbot of Glastonbury along with all the property associated with that office.

On 22nd June 1262 William the Goldsmith gave Abbot Robert de Petherton of Glastonbury all the land, arable and pasture, which he held as part of his office of goldsmith.[12] Hawysia Fitz James may well have known William the Goldsmith and could have got a good luck charm from hi before she went on pilgrimage in 1220.

Virgate in Middlezoy

In about 1220 Adam de Middlezoy granted to Sir William le Deneys a messuage and virgate in Middlezoy. The messuage was situated between St. Lawrence churchyard and the highway going to Weston Zoyland. Sir William gave Adam 5 marks and a robe and had promised to give 3s to the Abbot of Glastonbury.[13] In about 1225 William le Deneys granted the messuage south of St. John’s church and the virgate in Middlezoy to Henry the Carter.[14]

In 1226-7 Edulfus son of Richard quitclaimed to Henry the Carter a virgate of land in Middlezoy for which Henry paid Edulfus one mark.[15] It is not clear if this is the virgate of 1220 or another one. Sometime after 1226-7 Rikilda, daughter of Ralph le Noble quitclaimed all her rights in the virgate of 1220 in Middlezoy to Henry the Carter which her grandfather held.[16]

In about 1250 Henry the Carter of Ilchester granted to Hugh le Rous of Ilchester the virgate in Middlezoy he had from Sir William le Deneys for a rent of 3s to Glastonbury Abbey and 12d to the Holy Trinity Hospital in Ilchester. In return Hugh le Rous granted Henry the Carter 5 acres of arable land and 5 acres of meadow in Ilchester along with 100s.[17]

By 1261-2 Hugh le Rous held two messuages and eighteen acres of land in Middlezoy which he got from Thomas son of Robert de Middlezoy and in turn Thomas had the property from his grandmother, Eva de Sowey. In return Hugh gave Thomas four messuages, one virgate and eight acres in Middlezoy and Weston.[18]

In about 1269 John, son of Hugh le Rous, quitclaimed the property to Glastonbury Abbey with the exception of the marriage portion of Nicholas and Sibilla de Sowy.[19] In about 1272 Joan de Middlezoy, widow of Hugh le Rous, resigned to Glastonbury Abbey her one third dower portion of the virgate received from Henry the Carter.[20]

Going on pilgrimage

As said above, in about 1220 Hawysia Fitz James went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Medieval pilgrimage had a religious element but it was also an opportunity for trade and social contact. Sometimes the social contact was more personal than approved. Professor Nicholas Orme said on the Time Team excavation on Looe Island in Cornwall that women getting pregnant with an illegitimate child were sometimes called ‘going on pilgrimage’ or ‘Going to Jerusalem’.[21] It is presumed that Hawysia actually did go on pilgrimage and didn’t have an illegitimate child.

Going on pilgrimage 

The Holy Land in 1220

In 1220, when Hawysia Fitz James went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, only part of that country was under the control of the Crusader kingdoms established after the various European crusades sent out to free that land from the Islamic states. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, which included the Holy City, was established in 1099 after the First Crusade captured Jerusalem and the area around it. Over the next hundred years the Kingdom of Jerusalem expanded and contracted until finally in 1187 it was virtually wiped out by Saladin.

The Third Crusade, led by King Richard of England and Philip Augustus of France, retook the coastal regions of the Holy Land but failed to take Jerusalem. By the Treaty of Ramla in 1192 Saladin allowed pilgrimages to Jerusalem on condition that after making their vows the pilgrimages would return home. The Fourth Crusade ended in 1204 with the sack of Constantinople. The Fifth Crusade landed in Egypt in 1218 and made slow progress and in July 1221 the Crusaders were defeated near Cairo. The Sixth Crusade finally retook Jerusalem in 1229 without a fight but it was lost again in 1239 only to be restored to Christian control in 1240.[22]

Thus when Hawysia Fitz James arrived in the Holy Land in 1220 having travelled overland across Europe and by ship from Venice or Southern France, Jerusalem was under Muslim control. The reduced Kingdom of Jerusalem only controlled the coastal areas but here it was constantly under threat of attack from Damascus or Cairo. After Saladin took Jerusalem all Christian images and buildings were removed. But by 1219, Al-Mu'azzam, the Ayyubid ruler of Syria, believed that the city could only be purified by its complete destruction. In 1219 and 1220 two waves of destruction all but levelled the city.[23] Many of the native inhabitants left the city and Hawysia Fitz James would have seen little of the Holy Places except parts of the Holy Sepulchre.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre 

Hawysia land in Wrington

While Hawysia Fitz James was away on pilgrimage, her brother, Master Henry Fitz James granted Thomas, son of Roger de Bourne, one virgate of land at Wrington as the marriage portion of Henry’s niece Christine. Glastonbury Abbey was to receive 4s per year from the land and 18d from the larder. If Hawysia returned from her pilgrimage she was to receive half the virgate. But if Hawysia died on the journey, Thomas and Christine could retain the whole virgate.[24] Unfortunately no further documents survive relating to this virgate and thus it is unknown if Hawysia Fitz James ever returned from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Wrington was a large Glastonbury estate lying between Congresbury and Blagdon and mainly situated on the hills sloping down to the Yeo valley.

Later records show that the Bourne family were associated with Wrington for many decades after 1220. During the time of Abbot Michael de Ambersbury (1235-1252) Roger de Bourne held land in Wrington from Glastonbury and had under-tenants in the Glastonbury rental. The rental does not mention any Hawysia Fitz James or give any indication of that any of the tenants are related to her.[25] In 1302-3 William de Bourne granted some property in Wrington and elsewhere to Robert son of Robert de Brente and Claricia his wife. In 1303-4 William de Bourne held property there from the Hospital of St. John the Baptist of Bristol.[26]


The above journey through the Glastonbury estate in 1220 is only a pin picture of the vast Glastonbury estate. Many other places were held by the abbey but no documents survive from these places relating to 1220 when Hawysia Fitz James went on pilgrimage. Hawysia Fitz James would have known Glastonbury and possibly a number of the places mentioned. If she ever returned from the Holy Land is unknown but then medieval people had hopes of going to another place (Heaven) for fulfilment rather than for ever living on the Glastonbury estate.


End of post


[1] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury (Somerset Record Society, Vol. LXIII, 1952), Vol. II, p. 546
[3] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury (Somerset Record Society, Vol. LIX, 1947), Vol. 1, pp. 73-94, 188
[4] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. 1, pp. 102, 103
[6] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. 1, p. 8
[9] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 254
[10] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 254
[11] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 250
[12] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 255
[13] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 501
[14] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 501
[15] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium commonly called Feet of Fines for the County of Somerset, 1196 to 1307 (Somerset Record Society, Vol. VI, 1892), p. 50
[16] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 502
[17] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 497
[18] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium called Feet of Fines of Somerset, 1196 to 1307, pp. 194, 195
[19] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 498
[20] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, Vol. II, p. 500
[24] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury (Somerset Record Society, Vol. LXIII, 1952), Vol. II, p. 546
[25] C.J. Elton (ed.), Rentalia et Custumaria Michael de Ambersbury, 1235-1252, et Roger de Ford, 1252-1261, Abbatum Monasterii Beatae Mariae Glastoniae (Somerset Record Society, Vol. V, 1891), p. 77
[26] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium called Feet of Fines of Somerset, 1196 to 1307, pp. 320, 329

No comments:

Post a Comment