Monday, December 24, 2018

The rector of Siston and a felonious crime

The rector of Siston and a felonious crime

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

The parish and village of Siston lies about six miles north-east from Bristol.[1] Yet the writer of a guide book in 1915 said it was ‘one of those rare spots little frequented by the ordinary traveller’.[2] The parish of Siston once had three churches; St. Ann (still standing), St. Bartholomew and St. Cuthbert. The present church of St. Ann stands on the side of a hill and is dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is of eleventh century date but the exact time of its foundation is unknown.[3]

The church was valued at five marks in 1273.[4] The most interesting feature of the church is the elaborately carved solid lead font of Norman date. It is one of nine such fonts in Gloucestershire but a rarity in the national scene. The meaning of the carving has puzzled archaeologists for years.[5]

Rev. Roger de Dene

In July 1379 Margaret Wyngot asked the king if she could enfeoff John de Bampton, vicar of the church of Thornbury, and Roger de Dene, parson of the church of Siston, of some property. Margaret was then the wife of William Wyngot, lord of the manor of Siston.[6]

Margaret Wyngot was the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Peter Corbett. From her father (who died 36th year of Edward III) she inherited the manors of Siston, Alveston and Erdecot. After the death of William Myngot, she married Sir Gilbert Dennis. Margaret Corbett subsequently died and was buried in the parish church near Siston. Sir Gilbert remarried and took Margaret Russell, daughter of Sir Maurice Russell of Dyrham as his wife. When Sir Gilbert died in 1422 he asked in his will to be buried near his first wife in Siston church.[7]

St Anne's church, Siston

The felonious crime

Meanwhile, in the first year of King Richard II (1377-78), John Shepard of Doverle feloniously broke into the house of Walter Toukere at Westhanam. While in the house John Shepard feloniously raped Walter’s wife, Alice Toukere and stole goods worth 10s.[8] It is not clear if Walter Toukere was in the house when the crime occurred. The act of rape was not considered a serious crime in medieval England and to seek some form of redress, the victim often said that the rapist stole goods and so hope for some compensation from the court. Even today (2018) it can still be difficult for a woman to get justice in a rape crime. Often people go to the civil court to get compensation rather than risk going for a jail sentence and not getting it.

Nearly a decade later, in about 1388, Rev. Roger de Dene, rector of Siston and dean of Hawkesbury, was charged at the Gloucestershire sitting of the King’s Bench with extorting 26s 8d from John Shepard of Doverle after John Shepard had committed adultery with Alice Toukere.[9] At the same sitting Rev. Roger de Dene was accused of extorting 30s from John Hamond who had committed fornication with Edith Toukere.[10] The relationship, if any between Alice and Edith Touker is unknown. It would seem that Rev. Dene was trying to recover some financial compensation from the attackers to give to the victims. John Shepard and John Hamond were using the court system to prevent Rev. Dene from seeking some justice. For both ‘crimes’ Rev. Roger de Dene was summoned before the King’s Bench at Westminster in the Michaelmas term of 1388. He was acquitted on both counts.[11] But his efforts on behalf of the two women didn’t earn him credit in the church. Sometime before May 1388 Geoffrey Chauncerell was made parson of Siston. On 9th May 1388 Geoffrey Chauncerell exchanged Siston with John Averey, vicar of Bromle in Winchester.[12]

It is not known what happened to the other characters in this story. Medieval documents are like that – if a person doesn’t commit a crime or fail to pay taxes or dies leaving land held in chief from the king – the chances of getting even a mention in a medieval document are slim. The Doverle is a river running between Nibley and Berkeley which may suggest that John Sheppard was of no fixed abode.[13] It is hoped that Alice and Edith Toukere went on to have good and happy lives.


End of post


[1] Baddeley, W. St. Clair, Place-names of Gloucestershire (Gloucester, 1913), p. 141
[2] Robinson, W.J., West Country Churches (Bristol, 1915), Vol. III, p. 154
[3] Robinson, West Country Churches, Vol. III, p. 155
[4] Madge, S.J. (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part IV, 1236-1300 (British Record Society, 1903), p. 59
[5] Robinson, West Country Churches, Vol. III, p. 156
[6] Robinson, West Country Churches, Vol. III, p. 156
[7] Robinson, West Country Churches, Vol. III, pp. 154-5
[8] Kimball, E.G. (ed.), Rolls of the Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace 1361-1398 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1942), pp. 124-5, no. 97
[9] Kimball (ed.), Rolls of the Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace 1361-1398, p. 128, no. 109
[10] Kimball (ed.), Rolls of the Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace 1361-1398, p. 128, no. 110
[11] Kimball (ed.), Rolls of the Gloucestershire Sessions of the Peace 1361-1398, p. 128, notes 321, 323
[12] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Richard II, 1385-1389, 441
[13] Baddeley, Place-names of Gloucestershire, p. 55

No comments:

Post a Comment