The Magna Carta Project

John and the siege of Rochester: week seven

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

22 November 1215 - 28 November 1215


22-28 Nov 1215

Rochester (Kent)

RLP, 159b-60; RLC, i, 238-9


A mangonel, as constructed at the siege of Saianfu, described by Marco Polo, BL Royal MS 19 D I f.111 (France, c.1340)

After seven weeks, the siege of Rochester was at last approaching its denouement. Having dug tunnels beneath the castle's south-east tower, on Friday 25 November the King wrote to Hubert de Burgh at Dover asking that he send 'by day and night forty of the fattest bacon pigs from those least worth eating, to be used to fetch fire beneath the (castle) keep', presumably to supply grease by whose burning the mines could be sprung.1 From Dover, too, the King was supplied with wine.2 By Saturday 28 November, he was summoning to Rochester as many soldiers as could be spared from the garrisons of Winchester and the west country, including mercenaries newly arrived at Winchester from Angoulême. A high powered delegation consisting of the earl of Salisbury, Hugh de Neville, Philip d'Aubigny and William de St John was expected to bring the King treasure, or perhaps state prisoners (the record is damaged here, and refers only to a person or things, 'ea'), removed on the King's orders from Corfe Castle.3 Peter de Maulay, the constable of Corfe, was ordered to receive back into the King's fealty a group of rebels whose names would be supplied to him by the earl of Salisbury.4 On 25 November, the same day as orders were issued for pigs to be brought from Dover, payment was arranged for mangonels brought from Shoreham to Winchelsea, perhaps for transport by sea round the Kent coast to Rochester.5 In the Thames estuary, the King's galleys continued to blockade the trade of the Londoners, allowing passage only to those merchants (in the present week, Anselm of Ypres) whose trade with the city was licensed by the King.6 Hence the protection offered on 22 November to the men of the hundred of Barstable, on the north banks of the Thames, granting them peace from demands made by the King's galley keepers.7 Tonbridge, the principal Clare castle in Kent, was besieged and taken by Robert of Béthune shortly before the fall of Rochester.8 Around 25 November, Fawkes de Breauté lay siege to Bedford castle, with the garrison sending to their lord, William de Beauchamp, for aid.  When no such aid was forthcoming within a week, the castle surrendered.9 Seizures of rebel property continued this week, including in one instance an order for the customary pillage to be inflicted against the land of an 'enemy and traitor to the King' ('facto prius inde quod fieri debet de terra inimici et proditoris domini reg(is)').10 There were also several instructions intended to settle disputes over the property of royalists. Thus Godfrey of Crowcombe was ordered to ensure Roland Bloet possession of Knepp and the honour of Bramber previously held by the late Giles de Braose, bishop of Hereford.11 Gioni de Chanceaux, one of the King's alien French favourites, specifically proscribed in Magna Carta, was to have back lands in Gloucestershire and Somerset of which he had been deprived by Nicholas Puinz.12 Also in north Somerset, the lands and castle of Warin fitz Gerald at Stogursey were entrusted to the care of the local prior, not apparently as a hostile gesture but in order to protect Warin's interests there as a royalist either captured by the rebels or temporarily indisposed.13 The King's clerk, Philip de Langeberge, was promised custody of the land and heir of Ralph Belet in Gloucestershire, with marriage of the heir for his niece and of Ralph's widow for his nephew, provided that the widow would consent to this (i.e. as the briefest of nods in the direction of Magna Carta clause 8).14 Other commands were issued in favour of the royalists Thomas the Welshman and Master Nicholas the King's carpenter.15 Cecilia de Haye, whose eldest son, Walter, was with the rebels, was permitted to transfer her estate to another son, Roger, presently serving with William Brewer.16 At Southampton, Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, was granted custody of the vacant priory of St Denis.17


RLC, i, 238b: 'Rex H(uberto) de Burg' iustic(iario) etc. Mandamus vob(is) quod sub omni festinacione mittatis nob(is) de die et nocte quadraginta bacones de pinguioribus de ill(is) qui minus valent ad manducand(um) ad ponend(um) ad attractum incendendum sub turri ita quod negocium nostrum non remanerat pro quo illos mandauimus. T(este) me ipso apud Roffam, xxv. die Nou(embris)'.


RLC, i, 238.


RLP, 160, addressed to William Brewer, Thomas and Alan Basset and Alexander of Dorset.


RLP, 160.


RLC, i, 238, the expenses of Robert le Muntenir (?'the keeper'), who was also to have three horses that had been left behind at Lewes.


RLP, 159b, and for trading licences more generally, to merchants of Ghent, see RLP, 160. For further arrests of foreign and English shipping at Pevensey and Sandwich, and the landing via Sandwich of further Flemish knights, including Manasser brother of the count of Guînes, see RLC, i, 238-8b, including compensation to mariners of Hythe and Winchelsea whose ships had sustained damage in the King's service.


RLP, 159b.


Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre, ed. F. Michel (Paris, 1840), 162-3.


Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum, ed. H.O. Coxe (4 vols., London, 1842), iii, 349-50.


RLC, i, 238, and for seizues in general, see pp.238-9, recording land confiscated from the mother of Robert Arsic (at Somerton, Oxfordshire, to Eustace de Leon), Wimar of Bassingbourne (to Baldwin de Tosny), Henry of Braybrooke (in Northamptonshire, to Matthew de Martigny), Richard Brewer (in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, to William Brewer his father, perhaps as a result of death rather than rebellion), Hugh de Campanes/Kampanis (in Hampshire, to Roger de Scures), Henry de Diva (in ?Chapel Brampton, Northamptonshire, to Robert de Neville, a knight of Philip d'Aubigny), William 'the dog' ('le Chien', at Barkston, Lincolnshire, to Hugh de Pascy), Robert de Fekeham (in ?Fawkham, Kent, to Godeschal de Malines), Richard fitz Arthur (in Dorset and Somerset, to Roger de Ardres, at the petition of Philip d'Aubigny), Henry fitz Peter (in Northampton and elsewhere, to William Gratesville), Simon fitz Walter (kinsman of Robert fitz Walter, at Daventry, Northamptonshire, to Simon de Traviz), Henry fitz William (in Shefford, Berkshire, worth £10, to William de Ripariis), Hamo of Gatton (to Richard the King's son), William of Howbridge (in Essex and Kent, to Richard fitz Hugh), G(eoffrey) de Jarpenville (at tenant of Geoffrey de Mandeville at Bushey, Hertfordshire, to Roland de la Jerviray), Roger of Lenham (in Redenhall and 'Terling', Norfolk, to Charles fitz William, the King's valet), Matthew Mantel (in Essex, to Denis the clerk), William de Ros (to Luke de Drumar), John le Warre, son of Thomas (in Somerset, to John de Ken, at the request of Philip d'Aubigny).


RLP, 160, and cf. orders to the sheriff of Surrey to grant Roland custody of the manor of Gomshall, also from the late bishop's estate: RLC, i, 238b.


RLC, i, 238b, referring specifically to estates at Boddington, Mangotsfield and 'Painton', Gloucestershire, and at 'Auenberg' and 'Tribewell' (?Nempnett Thrubwell), Somerset, all of these places lying close to Bristol where Gioni's brother, Peter de Chanceaux, was then serving as constable.


RLC, i, 239.


RLC, i, 238b.


RLC, i, 239.


RLC, i, 239.


RLP, 160; RLC, i, 239.

King John's Diary & Itinerary