The Magna Carta Project

John seizes Berwick

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

10 January 1216 - 16 January 1216


10 Jan 1216

Bedlington (Northumberland)

RLC, i, 245b

10 Jan 1216

'Tiefort' (?Mitford, Northumberland)

Histoire des ducs, 164

Suggested identifications here include Styford, Tweedmouth, Tynemouth, and perhaps most plausibly Mitford. An attack on Mitford is undoubtedly recorded by the Melrose chronicler: Chronica de Mailros, ed. J. Stevenson, Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1835), 122.

11 Jan 1216

Alnwick (Northumberland)

RLC, i, 245b

11 Jan 1216

Norham (Northumberland)

Histoire des ducs, 164

14-16 Jan 1216

Berwick-upon-Tweed (Northumberland)

RLP, 163b-4; RLC, i, 245b; Chronica de Mailros, 122

Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle, engraving by William Miller, 1833

From Newcastle, the King went north to Berwick, travelling via the bishop of Northumberland's manors of Bedlington and Norham, and en route apparently taking the castles of Mitford (from Roger Bertram) and Alnwick (from Eustace de Vescy).1 The Melrose chronicle, whose detailed dating is not necessarily to be relied on here, records the burning of Mitford and Morpeth on 7 January, Alnwick on 9 January, Wark (a castle once held by Robert de Ros, inland on the Tweed) on 11 January, and the Scots royal burgh of Roxburgh on Sunday 16 January, apparently as John's army fanned out in advance of the King himself. At Melrose, meanwhile, on Monday 11 January, the northern barons renewed their oaths of homage to Alexander of Scotland. John's seizure of Berwick, which the Melrose chronicler dates to Friday 15 January, was accompanied by exemplary violence, including the deliberate torture of men and women. The chronicler, indeed, reports wild rumours that the King brought Jews in his wake, intending that they supervize the carnage.2 This perhaps reflects the presence at court of clerks associated with the Exchequer of the Jews, including Master Alexander of Dorset, at Berwick granted letters of protection, and Master Henry of Cerne, promoted to a third part of the church of Leeds, in the patronage of the vacant see of York.3 The Close and Patent rolls record only a small number of letters this week, most of them concerning the ongoing redistribution of rebel estates, or the custody of prisoners and hostages.4 Geoffrey de Marisco, justiciar in Ireland, was promised access to Carrickfergus castle, perhaps reflecting misgivings over the loyalty of the baronial colonists in Ireland.5 In Nottinghamshire, Richard of Laxton offered 100 marks and two palfreys to have the King's grace and benevolence, with half of this fine payable 'on the King's return from the north', and the rest at Easter.6 Fulk de Rumford offered 30 marks for the same, with the abbot of St Mary's York as his pledge.7 Another rebel who had negotiated his peace, Gerard de Furnivall, was promised the restoration of any 'tenseria' seized from his estate since his return to fealty.8


Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre, ed. F. Michel (Paris, 1840), 164, and for Mitford, see the note in the itinerary table.


Chronica de Mailros, ed. J. Stevenson, Bannatyne Club, xlix (1835), 122: ' XVIII. Kalendas Februarii cepit Iohannes rex Anglie villam et castellum de Berwic, ubi cum rutariis suis feroci supra modum et inhumana usus est tyrannide, utriusque enim sexus homines quoscumque satellites diaboli apprehendere potuerunt, alios per articulos manuum et pedum suspendentes, alios diuersis suppliciis torquentes, nefandi questus intuitu immanissime cruciauerunt. Ibi etiam Iudeos secum adduixisse et magistros malicie illos effecisse refertur'.


RLP, 163b-4


RLC, i, 245b, recording seizures from Robert Arsic and his mother (at Somerton and Cogges, Oxfordshire, in favour of Samson de Gaugy), Adam of Carlisle (£10 of land in Norfolk, in favour of Thomas de Verdun), Adam fitz William (in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in favour of Simon the King's cook), Henry of Mudford (at Mudford and Otterhampton, Somerset, in favour of William of Easton), Robert de Percy and Peter de Plumton (in Yorkshire, in favour of Brian de Lisle), William Pictor (in Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire, in favour of Walter de Killingham, now contracted to serve the King in person and with a companion knight, cf. Rot.Ob., 570), and from tenants of William earl Warenne (in Norfolk, with commands addressed to Hervey Belet to ensure reversion of their fees to the earl). The constable of Bedford was instructed to send the King Henry de Merc, nephew of William de Merc, together with his horses and harness.


RLP, 163b, addressed to William de Serland as constable.


Rot.Ob., 570, and for the vill of Laxton, ransomed in late December, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 27 December 1215- 2 January 1216.


Rot.Ob., 570.


RLC, i, 245b, and for Gerard, involved in negotiations with the King since early January, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 27 December 1215- 2 January 1216.

King John's Diary & Itinerary