The Magna Carta Project

John and the siege of Rochester: week five

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

8 November 1215 - 14 November 1215


8-14 Nov 1215

Rochester (Kent)

RLP, 158-9; RLC, i, 235-6b; Rot.Ob., 567

Map showing Erith, between Rochester and Southwark

Perhaps in response to advice from Rome (unspecified but reported in the previous week), on Monday 9 November the King made diplomatic approaches to the rebel barons: the first recorded since the outbreak of war early in September. Letters were issued granting earl Richard de Clare, Robert fitz Walter, Geoffrey de Say, the (unnamed) mayor of London and between two and four Londoners to meet at the parish church of Erith and there to talk of peace between King and barons with Peter des Roches bishop of Winchester, William earl Warenne, William earl of Arundel and Hubert de Burgh, these safe conducts to last until Thursday 12 November.1 Erith church, whose advowson lay with the canons of Holy Trinity Aldgate, was presumably chosen because of its location, on the south bank of the Thames, part way between Southwark and Rochester. At the same time, the manor of Erith was claimed by Robert fitz Walter and Richard de Montfichet, two of the leading members of the baronial twenty-five, as part of their inheritance from their joint ancestor, Richard de Lucy, Henry II's justiciar, suggesting that the barons would have regarded Erith as a potentially friendly place.2 Letters of safe conduct to a man named Godfrey the Welshman ('Wallens(is)') may further suggest attempts to secure the peace on the Welsh Marches.3 On Tuesday 10 November, the bailiffs of Dover were ordered to ensure a Channel crossing for H(ugh) archdeacon of Airaines, last heard of early in September 1215 when he had been amongst the group of royalists sent as nuncios to the papal court. The implication here must be that Hugh had returned to England in early November and was now being sent back to Rome to report.4 Ongoing military operations from Rochester included close control by the King's galleys over the waters of the Thames estuary, including apparently a series of raids upon the Essex coast from which the men, but not the knights of the Essex hundred of Rocheford were promised exemption, in return for a fine of 60 marks.5 Various merchants and royalists, including Peter des Roches, were granted licence to export merchandise, especially wool, to Flanders, or in the case of the Hospitallers, to carry grain from their manor of Rodmersham in north Kent to their mother house in London.6 As this suggests, London itself was effectively placed under blockade. Orders to Portsmouth and Southampton, and to Scarborough in Yorkshire, suggest the need to draw on local resources and farms to pay the wages of mercenary soldiers, including what may have been a substantial force from Poitou now garrisoned at Winchester.7 Hugh of Northwold, the recently recognized abbot of Bury St Edmunds, received letters of protection.8 For the rest, the vast majority of business entered on the Close Roll, running to several dozen writs, continued to concern the confiscation of estates from rebels and their reallocation to royalists.9


RLP, 158: R(icardus) com(es) de Clar', R(obertus) fil(ius) Walteri, G(alfridus) de Say, maior et duo vel tres vel quatuor ciues Lond' habent litteras de saluo et securo conductu ad veniend(um) ad ecclesiam de Ereheya ad loquendum cum P(etro) Wint' episcopo, W(illelmo) com(ite) Warenn', W(illelmo) com(ite) Arundell' et H(uberto) de Burg' iustic(iario) nunciis domini reg(is) ad tractand(um) de pace inter dominum regem et barones ei aduersantes et ibi morando et inde redeundo duraturo usque ad die Iouis proximam post festum sancti Martini a(nno) r(egni) d(omini) r(egis)  Inde habent litteras domini reg(is) patentes.  T(este) eodem apud Roffam, ix. die Nou(embris), a(nno) r(egni) d(omini) r(egis)  This safe conduct is repeated, in a slightly abbreviated form, in RLP, 158b.  For the papal representatives received in the previous week, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 1-7 November.  On 14 November, the King acknowledged receipt of £26 18s. deposited with the monks of Canterbury by brother Simon de Furn' (?Furnes, Flandre-Occidentale), perhaps another ecclesiastical envoy from Flanders: RLP, 159.


For the church, granted to Holy Trinity by Richard de Lucy, see J. Thorpe, Registrum Roffense (London, 1769), 325-9; Facsimiles of Royal and Other Charters in the British Museum, ed. G.F. Warner and H.J. Ellis (London 1903), no.34.  I am indebted to Martin Brett and his forthcoming edition of the charters of the bishops of Rochester for the information that the advowson had earlier been granted to Westminster Abbey, and then (ineffectively) via King Stephen and Waleran count of Meulan, to the leper hospital of St-Gilles at Pont-Audemer.  For the manor, see CRR, viii, 25; x, 164, 186-7; xii, nos.136, 969; xvi, no.122; Book of Fees, ii, 669, 675, noting the descent of the manor to the three daughters of Richard de Lucy, including Robert fitz Walter's mother, Richard de Montfichet's grandmother, and the mother of Richard de Umfraville.


RLP, 158b.


RLC, i, 235b-6, and for Hugh of Airaines as nuncio to the papal curia, see N. Vincent, 'Feature of the Month: October 2015 - Ten Letters on Anglo-Papal Diplomacy, July-September 1215', The Magna Carta Project.


RLP, 158b; Rot.Ob., 567.


RLP, 158b-9.


RLC, i, 236.


RLP, 158b.


In the present week (RLC, i, 235-6b) what seem to be confiscations from rebels include the seizure of the estates of Walter de Abernon (in Surrey, valued at £40, in favour of Colin de Molis), William d'Arche (in Lincolnshire, in favour of William Brewer), John Basset (in the bailiwicks of the Peak and Bedford castle, in favour of Hugh de Neville), Hugh de Bernevalle (at Biddestone, Wilsthire, in favour of Jordan Basset, and elsewhere in favour of William earl of Salisbury), Adam de Bovent (50 acres of marsh at Pevensey, Sussex, in favour of Edmund fitz Alan, Adam's lord), Henry de Braibeuf (at Cranbourne, Hampshire, in favour of Elias the mayor of Winchester), Adam the Butler (at Cooling and Wickham, Kent, and at Wilcote, Oxfordshire, all in favour of Reginald de Drumar), Eustace de Champrémy ('Campo Remigii') and Simon his brother (at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in favour of Robert Makerell), Ralph de Clere (at Lasham, Hampshire, in favour of Elias de Falaise), William Clinton (at Aston Clinton, Oxfordshire, in favour of Robert de Beauchamp), Reginald of Cornhill (in Kent, in favour of Savaric de Mauléon) and Wyot his clerk (at Claydene, in Cowden, Kent, and at Havering in Essex, in favour of William the Cook), Guy de Cultura (in Orchardleigh, Somerset, in favour of William Hendric), Ingelram the falconer (100s. of land at Clokton', probably Yorkshire, in favour of Eudo de Aungiers), William fitz Alan (in Buckinghamshire, in favour of Walerand Teutonicus), William fitz Hamo (whose lands were to be seized by Walerand Teutonicus), Simon fitz Simon (in Cley and elswhere in Norfolk, in favour of Roland Bloet), Philip de Herberville (in Kent, in favour of Thurold de Quevilly), Nicholas of Kennet (at Lamberhurst, Kent, in favour of Walter de Hanley), Wischard Leydet (in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, in favour of Hugh de Neville), Alured of Lincoln (in Dorset and Somerset, in favour of Lupillon the crossbowman), Geoffrey de Lucy (in Hailes, Gloucestershire, in favour of Robert de Meisy), Geoffrey de Mandeville (at 'Thornebir' in Dorset, in favour of Thomas Malesmains), Robert de Mandeville (in Dorset/Somerset, in favour of Ralph de Faye and his brother), Eustace de Mortain (in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire, in favour of Ralph fitz Nicholas), William de Osier (in Oxfordshire, in favour of Hugh de Neville, together with William himself as a prisoner), William de Ros (in favour of Luke de Drumar), Hugh Russell (at Fawsley and Thorpe, Northamptonshire, in favour of Walter de Morton), Oliver de Vaux (at Warnborugh Hampshire, in favour of Henry de Campania), Jordan la Warr and Robert de Stoke (in Somerset, in favour of Matthew of Wallop, Jordan and Robert's lord), Henry of Yarmouth and Robert son of Alexander Asketil (in Norfolk, in favour of Gerberga the mother of Charles fitz William, specifically described as land of the King's enemies), and in favour of Oliver the King's bastard son (the Kent castle and honour of Tonge near Milton).  In addition, in what may have been transfers of land not dictated by warfare, the King granted the lands of Josceus de Bayeux in Somerset to Robert de Bayeux (RLC, i, 235); land at Deddington in Oxfordshire to Thomas Basset previously granted by Thomas to William Malet in marriage with Thomas' daughter (RLC, i, 235); land at Weston and Beverstone in Gloucestershire to Roger de Hodeng and Eudo fitz Warin (RLC, i, 235b); land in Surrey from the estate of the late Urric the Engineer to Master Reiner engineer of Savaric de Mauléon (RLC, i, 235b), and the land of Ralph fitz Pain in Shaftesbury, Dorset, in favour of William of Shaftesbury (St Edward's) (RLC, i, 235b).  In Herefordshire, the sheriff was commanded to investigate an offer of 10s. a year made by Nicholas Secural for licence to assart the wood of Dinmore (RLC, i, 236), provided that this would not damage the King's manor of Marden.

King John's Diary & Itinerary