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 It seems a shame not to share the content of some of our Group meetings  as so much work goes into them and so much information comes out of them! Unfortunately this year we had to cancell three meetings because of illness.  The following reports  for some of our  2017 meetings  are by our Secretary Penny Lawton.

 

BREAD, A CIVIL SERVANT AND A LOLLARD

 

Our advertised paper on Diplomacy had to be postponed because the member who was to give it was ill but we quickly found other material to share: a career civil servant; a lollard and that basic commodity, bread.

Bread

Bread was such a common part of medieval life that it was not included in the surviving recipe books, which makes it quite difficult to be certain what the different sorts looked and tasted like. The Assize of Bread and Ale, 1266/7 makes, at first sight quite incomprehensible reading: "When a quarter of wheat is sold for 12d, then Wastel bread of a farthing shall weigh £6 16s. ....". It becomes a little clearer when one knows that because coinage was strictly controlled and had to contain a precise weight of silver, the coins themselves were commonly used as weights.

The lightest bread mentioned in the Assize was Simnel; whatever this was, it was not like a modern simnel cake but may have had a scone-like texture or been made into bread rolls rather than a loaf. This was followed, in order of weight, by Wastel; Cocket; Whole wheat or Cheat; Treet or Common wheat. These were made from wheat flour of different grades, from the most finely sifted to the coarsest. Other types of bread, not mentioned in the Assize were Pandemain, the finest bread made for the nobility in their own households and not on sale to the public and bread baked from grains other than wheat.

Rye was the most commonly grown grain crop and Rye bread and Maslin, (a mixture of wheat and rye) were probably the breads most commonly eaten by the common people. Oats grow better than rye in the northern counties and so Oatcakes (havercakes, clapbread) were, and still are, eaten in northern counties, (especially, of course, Staffordshire, which proudly claims ownership of the "Staffordshire Oatcake", though to be honest, there is also an equally strongly claimed "Derbyshire Oatcake" and what difference there may be between them is hard to say.) Barley was mostly used for brewing, though sometimes made into bread. Horsebread was was only eaten by the very poorest and was made from ground peas and beans with whatever scraps of flour and bran they could lay hands on. 

Bakers who transgressed against the law set down in the Assize could be amerced up to three times, provided their offence was not too great but those whose abuse was too flagrant or persistent would face "the judgement of the Pillory".

The Civil Servant

William Boteler's  pedigree is not certain but Ralph Griffiths in his, "King and Country, England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century", conjectures that he might well be the illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Sudely, eldest son of William Boteler and Joan Sudely. He worked closely with Ralph 7th Lord Sudeley, who, if Griffiths is correct, may well have been his half brother.

He was a fifteenth century civil servant – a ‘working man’. He spent his long life in the administrative service of three kings: Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI, from early days as a messenger and paymaster for the young Prince Hal to later life  as Chamberlain  of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire.   He was also carried out administrative duties for the earls of Nottingham and Warwick before being disgraced at the age of sixty over complaints of his mishandling his receivership of Kidwelly.  Although he was not a brilliant administrator according to Griffiths, neither was he very inefficient or oppressive. He was held in high regard by Henry VI and maintained by the Royal household. He was loyal to the end: returning with the King from a Council meeting in Leicester, he meet his death at the battle of St Albans.

The Lollard

On 18th October 1511, two Lollards were burned at Smithfield: James Brewster, a carpenter and William Sweeting, sometime bailiff and holy water clerk. The two had been associates for some years but it is Sweetings career which is best recorded.

He is first known at Dallington near Northampton, in the service of Lady Elizabeth, wife of Sir William Lucy and it may be here that he embraced Lollardy. Northamptonshire was the county of Lollard knights Sir Thomas Latimer and Sir John Trussell, while the Lucys' roots were in Herefordshire and the Welsh Marches, where their neighbours included Sir John Clanvow and Sir John Oldcastle. Fragmentary records indicate that Lord Henry Scrope had felt it necessary to warn Lucy against alliance with the fugitive Oldcastle.

Sweeting moved to Boxted in Essex about 1467 where he became the holy water clerk at the parish church, an apparently odd choice for a Lollard but one that probably gave him opportunities to proselytize, since his duties, beside cleaning and preparing the church for services, also required him "to teche children to rede and synge in the choir".  In about 1475, Sweeting moved on to become bailiff to Margaret Wood of Rivers Hall in Boxted. Her husband, Sir John Wood was Speaker of the House of Commons in Edward IV's last parliament and went on to become      Richard III's first Treasurer.

Sweeting was at Boxted for about 20 years. At his trial in 1506, he attributed his Lollardy to reading Matthew's gospel with one William Man. However, it is likely that he had first encountered it in Northamptonshire. Moreover, as holy water clerk, his duties would have included reading the epistle in Latin: he had access to a Bible and presumably was sufficiently literate to understand it.

About 1489 Sweeting moved on again, to become servant of the Augustinian Priory of St. Osyth's, near Colchester, where he remained until his first arrest, along with Sweeting and the other Colchester Lollards, in 1506. It was here that he achieved his most famous "coup": he converted the Prior, George Laund to his Lollard beliefs. St. Osyth's close ties with the town and an entry in the accounts, suggest that the house had contact with the Colchester Lollards. Here Sweeting also began his association with James Brewster.

One of the accusations against Brewster gives an indication of the sophistication of their beliefs and familiarity with Biblical texts. Having heard Master Bardfield (who held the high office of bailiff of Colchester) refer to "Maozim", Brewster asked William Man what it meant and was told that "it signified as much as the masing God, to wit, the sacrament of the alter". "Maozim" occurs only once in the Bible, Daniel 11, and refers to a strange god worshipped by a blasphemous ruler who rewards those who honour Maozim and destroys those who remain faithful to the true God, leaving behind only a remnant, purified, "maad whijt til to a tyme determyned, for ȝit another tyme schal be". Clearly a template for the Lollards own beliefs and experiences. Sweeting and the Colchester Lollards abjured and did penance at St. Paul's Cross in London on 15th March 1506.

Surprisingly, Sweeting again found a job as a holy water clerk at St. Mary Magdalen, Colchester. The parson evidently found the faggot badge which Sweeing had been condemned to wear for life, an embarrassment rather than an impediment to employment and removed it.  After two years Sweeting moved on to become holy water clerk at Rotherhithe, where he remained for a year before becoming a neat herd at Chelsea where he associated with and may have been a teacher of, other Lollards. Brewster travelled from Colchester to attend a conventicle which Sweeting held in the fields outside Chelsea, "where he read many good things out of a certain book". It was through the son of one of his associates, John Forge, that Sweeting, Brewster and others were discovered and arrested on 11th July 1511. As relapsed heretics, Sweeting and Brewster were burned together in single fire, at Smithfield on 18th October.

 

 

FOREIGN POLICY UNDER EDWARD IV AND RICHARD III

 

The main item at the meeting was a paper on "Foreign Policy under Edward IV and Richard III", which was much appreciated by all. It is now on our website in Member's Papers  section.

The paper generated further discussion on diplomatic matters and England's relations with the wider world. We remembered that Caxton had engaged in diplomacy on behalf of Edward IV while in Bruges as part of the merchant community there. We considered the political motivations behind several earlier royal marriages, as well as Richard III's marriage plans following the death of Queen Anne and the consequences of Edward IV's failure to make a "diplomatic" match. We also revisited our earlier topic of travel and crusades as evidence of England's engagement with the known world.

 

This was followed by a shorter paper on The Isenheim Altar, by Matthias Grunewald, as an example of the effect of the Black Death on European art and in particular the "plague Christs". The Isemhein Altar was painted for Antonine house which cared for plague victims. In contrast to earlier dipictions of the Crucifixion, which show a Christ divinely above suffering, the Isenheim Altar, like other "plague Christs", empasises Christ's human suffering and therefore empathy with all human suffering. This too was followed by a discussion and speculation on the wider pschological effects of the Black Death, not least the effect upon religion and attitudes to the Church. The later 14th century would be a time of questioning, dissent and anti-clericalism.

A lively and interesting meeting.

 

 

A MONASTERY NEAR YOU - ORIGINS

 

Our chosen topic for the next three months was, "A Monastery (priory, friary, convent etc.) Near You". We began with an overview of origins of monasticism and of the different religious orders.

Early Origins

Looking at the early origins of monasticism indicated two strands and types: the eremitical or solitary, contemplative, "hermit-like" way of life and the cenobitical, living as part of a religious community. St. Anthony the Great, who left civilisation to live alone on a mountain in the Egyptian desert in the 3rd century, is regarded as the founding father of the eremitical way. He quickly gathered disciples who lived as hermits but often not far from eachother. The cenobitical way also originated in Egypt with St. Pachomius, who, in the 4th century, established an organised community in which monks lived in individual "cellula" but worked, ate and worshipped together. This enabled pious individuals who did not have the skills and stamina to survive alone in the desert live an ascetic religious life.

Another possible strand in the very early origins of monasticism, took us back to our visit to Chester in July for Professor Brooke's talk on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes who lived at Qumran in the first century, were a Jewish sect whose way of life may have been pre-cursor of monasticism. The contemporary historian Josephus divided the Essenes into those who married and those who did not but states that even those who did marearly ry, did not greatly approve of it and did so only for the propagation of humanity. Both Josephus and "The Damascus Document", describe a lengthly period of probation for anyone wishing to join the community. If they are accepted, they make solomn vows and their property becomes the common property of the community. The Essenes were farmers, kept no slaves and made no animal sacrifices but devoted themselves to the study of their ancestral texts.

Monasticism developed and became important in the Eastern Orthodox church, however, our study concentrated on the Western Church. It was introduced by St. Athanasius, who visited Rome accompanied by two Egyptian monks, Ammon and Isidore who were disciples of St. Anthony. The earliest forms therefore aimed to reproduce the eremitical type of monasicism, a kind of colony of hermits: early examples being those established by Martin of Tours. Other early monasteries inFrance were founded by Honoratus of Marseilles and John Cassian, whose "Institutes" provided an influential guide for monastic life. The first Celtic monastries seem to have been simply communities of Christians, men, women and children living together but later Celtic monasticism was heavily influenced by the Desert Fathers and organised as an enclosure in which monks occupied separate cells.

The most influential individual in the development of monasticism in western Europe was Benedict of Nursia. He was educated in Rome but left to live in cave outside the city, where he soon attracted followers. He founded the monastery of Monte Cassino about 520. Despite having sought the life of a hermit, what he founded was a cenobitic institution, influenced by the those of St. Pachomius. He established for it a Rule, which defined the activities and organisation of the monastery and which became the basis for all subsequent monastic establishments.   

Early Establishments in our Area

Pope Gregory sent Augustine to convert the English in 597 but Mercia resisted Christianity and conversion did not begin until Chad established his bishopric at Lichfield, 669-72. Evidence of early foundations is sketchy and unreliable. According to one tradition, when the sons of king Wulfhere, Rufinus and Wulfad converted to Christianity their angry father killed them. When, later he too converted, he founded a monastery at Stone. Certainly, when Stone priory was founded in the 12th C. there was already a church dedicated to St. Wulfad. Unfortunately, the same story is told by Bede but set ten years later and in a different part of the country and Wulfhere was already Christian when he became king. Wulfhere's daughter, St. Werburgh did became abbess of a convent at Hanbury and was buried there c. 700. There is also a tradition that an Irish abbess, St. Modwen, founded a monastery at Burton-on-Trent but there is no hard evidence to support this. The only foundation in this period for which there is certain evidence is that at Repton. The story that it was founded by St. David is unlikely but it was Celtic type of foundation containing both men and women and ruled by an abbess. Alfthritha was abbess in 697. Repton became the chosen burial place of the kings of Mercia: their tombs were in the crypt of what is now the parish church.

The repeated invasions of the pagan Vikings seem to have halted the further development of monasteries until the mid 10th century and it is likely that some early foundations were lost during this period. Quite a few monastic foundations have a tradition of an earlier foundation, before the one that is documented.  By the mid 10th century most western monasteries followed the rule of Benedict and so were known as Benedictines, or "Black Monks" after the colour of their habits. The first these in Staffordshire was that of Burton-on-Trent, which was founded in 1004 by Wulfric Spot an Anglo-Saxon theign. The will of Wulfric Spot, detailing the extensive properties with which he endowed the abbey, survives and is probably the greatest treasure of the Staffordshire archives.

Shortly before the Conquest, in 1061, Burchard, son of Algar, a Mercian eolderman, was taken ill while returning from a visit to Rome. Realising he was dying, he asked to be buried in the monastery of St. Rémy promising lands in England in payment. His father duly provided lands at Lapley, Hamstall Ridware, Meaford and Church Eaton in Staffordshire and Silvington in Shropshire. A small foundation or "cell", consisting usually of just a prior and two others, was set up at Lapley. They did not, however, lead a full monastic life: their job was to administer the estates and send the profits back to the mother house of St. Rémy.

This type of arrangement increased after the Normans had conquered England, as they endowed monasteries in their native Normandy with parcels of their newly acquired English lands. When hostilities broke out between England and France (which they did quite frequently, even before the start of the Hundred Years War), these foundations found themselves vulnerable. The possessions which Lapley administered were seized in 1204, 1288 and 1325, on each occasion only being returned on payment of a hefty fine. During the Hundred Years War itself, institutions which sent a substantial part of their income to mother houses abroad were officially designated "Alien Priories" and taken into the king's hands. He then granted them back as a gift from him, in return for their promise not to act treasonably, leave the country without permission or export precious metals and of course a substantial payment. In 1378, probably in response to the complaints raised in the Good Parliament of 1376, (one of our topics May last year) all foreign monks were ordered to leave the country through Dover, where they were searched. Lapley Priory was exempted but over the next 40 years, it was given by successsive kings into the hands of various individuals, to enjoy the income, whilst the annual payments due to the king increased. In 1414 the whole estate was given to Tong college in Shropshire, by which time there was only one monk remaining there. He probably returned to France.

 

A MONASTERY NEAR YOU continued

Wulfric Spott

The second (documented) monastic establishment in Staffordshire, after Repton was that of Burton-on-Trent and it remained the largest in the county. It was established in 1004 by the Mercian theign, generally known as Wulfric Spott, though he only acquired the byname "Spott" in the 12th century and is referred to in contemporary documents as "Wulfric, Wulfrun's son". Since the monks of Burton commemorated his death on 22nd October (the next day after our meeting) we had a look at what is known about him.

 

Wulfrun was the name of Wulfric's mother. He was one of her three known children but the name of her husband is not known. Wulfrun inherited property in Wolverhampton (which is named after her) and Abbots Bromley, which had previously belonged to Wulfsige "the black" and this, together with the "Wulf" element of their names, indicates that Wulfsige was probably Wulfrun's father. Wulfric's high status is indicated in charters of King Athelstan where he is described as "king' theign" and he and his brother, Aelfhelm are among the first and therefore most prominent, of the witnesses. It is also indicated by the huge amount of land he he held. Places in Staffordshire named in his will have been identified as: Burton, Abbots Bromley, Oakley, Okeover, Balterley, Pillaton, Barlaston, Ilam, Castern (near Ilam), Cauldon, Cotwalton and Darlaston (near Stone), Eccleshall, Elford, Gailley, Harlaston ( in Lichfield), Church Leigh, Longdon, Marchington, Rolleston, Rudyard, Sheen, Stretton, Winshill, Whiston and Tamworth. He bequeathed his property in Tamworth to his "wretched daughter", a description which suggests she may have been disabled. He had no son and bequeathed much of his property to found the abbey of Burton. Some scholars think that Wulfric died soon after making his will in 1004 but Burton Abbey's "History of the Abbots" records that Wulfric died in 1010, fighting the Danes at the battle of  Ringmere, near Ipswich and that he was buried beside his wife Elswitha who had died 6 years earlier (ie. 1004, when the will was made).

Chester

The City of Chester has a long monastic tradition.  There were establishments of the Grey Friars (Franciscans), the Black Friars (Dominicans) and the White Friars (Carmelites). There was a well-established pilgrim route to the shrine of St. Weburgh, whose remains were brought to Chester around 875 to protect them from the invading Danish army. The Saint's remains were originally buried in the (existing) Church of St. Peter and St. Paul; then transferred to the (also existing) St. Peter's Church.  They were finally moved to the Benedictine monastery (the Black Monks) founded in 1092 by Earl Hugh Lupus, nephew of William the Conqueror, which was devoted to the memory of the Saint. The monastery was built on the foundations of earlier Saxon constructions.The monastery was granted a charter by St. Anselm of Bec, subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury. The first Abbot of the monastery was Richard of Bec. Succeeding Abbots undertook programmes of building and extending the Abbey. Building of the newer sections of the Abbey entailed the demolition of the earlier Saxon buildings, until this process was completed in around 1211.

The Abbots of St. Werburgh were granted equal rights to the Earl of Chester. They held courts to deal with both secular and religious matteres, with trial by fire, water and combat being employed to resolve such cases. Punishments were carried out by the Abbot's officers, including execution if appropriate. These trials would have taken place in the Consistory Court; it was in use for legal hearings, even up to the Dissolution of the Monasteries and into the nineteenth century.

The monks of the Abbey were not considered especially ascetic, and were reputed to feast regularly on the game that had been caught in the forests of Delamere, where they has been granted rights by the Norman Earls of Chester. They were not dressed either in plain, functional material, but oftern attired in the very best apparel, and with all the fashionable accessories of the age. The scraps from their tables did not find their way to the poor, but were generally fed to the hounds and terriers  which accompanied them on their regular hunting trips.

The monks who could write produced works of considerable originality, and the monastery was clearly an intellectual centre. In 1184 the monk Lucian wrote De Laude Cestre (In praise of Chester).

Another monk, Ranulph Higden, wrote a universal history, the Polychronicon, in the Abbey in the first half of the fourteenth century; a copy is in the local Records Office. He is also reputed to have written the text for the Chester Mystery Plays. Another monk, Henry Bradshaw, wrote a life of St. Werburgh in English, which is the source of most of what is known about the Saint.

In 1539, the process of Dissolution of the Monasteries began. In 1541, the Abbey was changed to the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the seat of the new bishopric of Chester, created by subdividing the Diocese of Lichfield. The Abbot became Dean, the former Cathedral, St. John's Church, became a Parish Church. The prior of the former Abbey was fortunate enough to survive throughout the turbulent times of King Edward VI and Queen Mary into the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Considerable harm was done to the fabric of the Cathedral during the Reformation; the Civil War, too, did harm as the Parliamentary troops smashed the medieval glass and damaged the Quire.

Norton Priory

Norton Priory was the second religious house to be founded in Earldom of Chester, after the Abbey of St. Werburgh. It was established as an Augustinian foundation in 1115 by William FitzNigel, 2nd baron of Halton and Constable of Chester. It was dedicated to St. Bertelin and St. Mary. Originally it was situated on the south bank of the River Mersey where it narrows to form "Runcorn Gap", the only crossing between Warrington and Birkenhead. Probably the canons both cared for travellers and profited from tolls levied on the river crossing. However, in 1134, William FitzWilliam, 3rd Baron  Hulton moved it to the present site, in the village of Norton. It is unclear whether this was because William wanted direct control of the river crossing or the canons wanted a different site. What the canons got, was a site in damp scrubby woodland which they had to clear and drain. However, it did have springs to provide running water and building materials available nearby: sandstone, sand (for mortar) and boulder clay for tiles as well as mature oak from the forests of Delamere and Macclesfield. The Priory was endowed by William FitzNigel with properties in Cheshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, including the churches of St. Mary, Budworth and St. Michael Chester. By 1195 it owned eight churches, five houses, the tithe of at least eight mills, rights of common in four townships and one tenth of the profits from Runcorn ferry. The original community has been estimated at about 12, rising to 26 by the end of the 12th century.

The Barons of Hulton remained the main benefactors of the Priory during the 12th century but after 1200 their interest and their bequests were transferred to the Cictercian Abbey of Stanlow, founded 1178 by John FitzRichard, the 6th Baron. The Dutton family, who had been patrons of the Priory since its foundation, now became its principal patrons: they had their own chapel in the priory and burial there is specified in three of their surviving wills.  The Aston family also became important benefactors. During the 13th century, the Priory buildings were extended: the church was lengthened, a large chapel added to the east end, the west front enlarged, a bell tower added, a new and larger chapter house and guest accommodation were built.

During the first half of the 14th century the Priory suffered from financial mismangement, quarrels with the Duttons and in 1331, flooding affecting their farm land. Financial problems continued into the 1350s. Matters improved after the appointment in 1366 of Richard Wyche as Prior. He was active in the wider Augustinian community and in 1391, obtained for the Priory the status of an Abbey, a rare distinction.  By this time the barony of Hulton had passed into the Duchy of Lancaster and perhaps at Wyche's prompting, John of Gaunt agreed to become a patron of the new Abbey. However, after Wyche's death in 1400, the Abbey went into decline. Flooding continued to be probelm and later abbots lacked Richard Wyche's abilities. In 1429 the state of the church and other buildings was described as "ruinous"; by 1496 the 1496 the number of canons had fallen to nine and fell further to seven in 1524. In 1522 there were disputes between the Abbot and the Prior: the Abbot was accused of "wasting the Abbey's resources, nepotism, relations with women" and other matters, while the Prior admitted to "fornication, and lapses in the obsevance of the Rule." The Prior threatened the Abbot with a knife but then left the Abbey.

The Abbey was closed in 1536, at the Dissolution. The surviving structures were sold nine years later to Sir Richard Brook who built a Tudor house incorporating part of the Abbey but this was replaced in the 18th century by a Georgian house, which the Brooke family vacated in 1921 and which was partly demolished seven years later. In 1966 the site was given in trust for the use of the general public.

Stafford Priory and Friaries

The nearest abbeys to Stafford were at Little Haywood near Shugboroughhad and Oulton near Stone. The town had a priory and two friaries. The two friaries were at either end of the town. At the northern end was the Franciscan friary, the Grey Friars remembered in the name of the street (now a section of the A34). On the south side, (A449), on the site of what is now the Roman Catholic church of St. Augustine, were the Augustinian canons.

The Priory was dedicated to St. Thomas the Martyr. It was situated just off the (A34) Stafford to Cannock road, south of the town at Baswich on the banks of the River Sow. Some remains can be seen at St. Thomas's Farm. The priory was also an Augustinian (Black Canons) house, founded in 1174 by Gerald Fitz-Brian, a wealthy burgess of Stafford, on land which he leased from Richard Peche, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, who was a friend of Thomas Becket, to whom the Priory was dedicated. Peche himself became a patron of the Priory and was buried before the high altar in 1182. The first canons came from Darnley Abbey in Derbyshire.

Fitz-Brian endowed the Priory with properties in Stafford including 70 acres of land around the River Sow and the use of property in Stafford subject to an anual rent of eight shillings. Bishop Peche added properties in Lichfield, rights of pasture in Eccleshall, Baswich and Orberton, fishing rights on the rivers Sow and Penk and the right to gather wood on Cannock Chase. There were also donations of land in Maer and Whitgreve which allowed the Priory to build up significant estates there. In 1194 the Priory bought the manor of Drayton for 35 marks. In 1245 Henry III gave the house a gift of £10 to buy a chausible of "red samirs with orphreys" and in 1275 they were given a hospital at Ashbourne by Robert de Ferrers.

In 1277-8, John of Pendleford sold his manor of Pendleford, Tettenhall, near Wolverhampton, to the Priory. He was a verderer of the Forest of Cannock, who had committed the offence of taking for himself a buck. He fled for his life and took sanctuary in the Priory.  In 1288 the Priory was recorded as having property worth £29 0s 9d, tithe 40s ½d. The canons also owned salt pans in Cheshire and lands in Tixall, Stone and Donisthorpe, given by the de Muttons of Ingestre Hall. In 1300 Geoffrey de Greeley, a friend of de Ferrers, gave them rent of 19s annually from a mill at Bupton, Derbyshire and Ferrers gave them a grant from the revenues of the rectory at Weston. They also possessed advowsons of the churches of Weston-on-Trent and Bushbury and rights of free warren.

These donations made the Priory wealthier than the average Augustinian house. A condiditon of many of the donations was that the donors heirs should have the right to reside in the Priory, a condition by which it came to be recognised as a home for the landless younger sons of the gentry. In 1518 it was recorded that the Prior ruled the community autocratically and unfairly, though efficiently and that he relied too much on an "inner circle" of one or two canons including one Richard Hervy and certain laymen. The inventory of the Priory's wealth was not read out the whole community as it should have been; some of the canons did not eat in the refectory but privately with the Prior, nor sleep in the dormitory but enjoyed private accommodation. The Prior's servants did not show proper respect and there were too many hunting dogs. The bishop ordered these things to be amended and the number of canons increased but another visitation in 1524 found that nothing had been done.

The Priory's possessions were "Soulde by the Kynges Commissioners to the Reverend father in God Bysshope of Cove[n]t[ry] and Lychefeld the xviijth Day of October in the xxxth yere of our Soveraigne lorde Kyng Henry VIIIth". The  inventory of the goods at the sale give a good indication of the Priory's wealth and the comfort which the canons enjoyed.

Chaucer's Monk

The canons of St. Thomas's, Stafford, were certainly not the only ones to enjoy hunting and keep dogs. In 1346 the Chapter of the Augustinian order passed a statute that hunting dogs should not be kept but added that if they were, they should not be given the food meant for the poor. This love of hunting is central to Chaucer's satirical portrait of the Monk, in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Years ago Bressie suggested that Chaucer's monk could be based upon William de Cloune, Abbot of Leicester 1345-78, who was well known to both Edward III and John of Gaunt. Cloune obtained a Papal dispensation for the monks of Leicester to be allowed to wear boots which was otherwise forbidden, they should wear sandals. It was also said that in Cloune's time the monastery was "notoriously Lollard" and practiced a liberal interpretation of Augustinian precepts.

           Chaucer describes the Monk as:

            "A manly man, to been an abbot able,

            "Ful many a dayntee hors hadde he in stable.

            ......

            "Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowel in flight;

            "Of prikyng [riding] and of huntyng for the hare

            "Was all his lust, for no cost wolde he spare."

 

Like the monks of Leicester, he wears:

            "His bootes souple..."

And like the monks of St. Werburgh, he did not wear the simple monastic gown:

            "I seigh his sleves pufiled at the hand [fur cuffs]

            "With grys, and that the finest of a lond,

            "And for to festne his hood under his chyn

            "He hadde of gold ywrought a ful curious pin;

            A love knot in the gretter end ther was."

The Monk also enjoyes his food:

            "He was a lord ful fat .....

            .......

            "He was nat pale as a forpyned goost,

            "A fat swan loved he best of any roost"

From what we have learned so far, it looks as if Chaucer's satire was pretty accurate.`