The Magna Carta Project

John returns to Wiltshire

by Professor Nicholas Vincent

2 August 1215 - 8 August 1215


2 Aug 1215


RLP, 151-51b; RLC, i, 223b-4b; Rot.Ob., 561

3 Aug 1215

Cirencester (Gloucestershire)

RLP, 151b-52, 181; RLC, i, 224b

4 Aug 1215

?Easton Royal ('Aiston') (Wiltshire)

RLP, 152; Rot.Ob., 562

4 Aug 1215

Ludgershall (Wiltshire)

RLP, 152

5 Aug 1215


RLP, 152

7-8 Aug 1215

Clarendon (Wiltshire)

RC, 217; RLP, 152; RLC, i, 224b-5

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

Travelling via Worcester, in rather different circumstances from those in which he had last visited the city at Christmas, John returned from the Marches to his familiar stamping grounds in Wiltshire. There can be little doubt that he wished to stay close to his chief sources of treasure, at Marlborough, Corfe, Winchester and Bristol, some of which, by this time, may have been tapped close to exhaustion. An indication of concern here comes in letters of 4 August addressed to William de Harcourt and the constable of Winchester Castle commanding them to transport a sealed chest ('archa') that had been evacuated from London to the tower at Winchester, to be taken safely to Clarendon by 11 August (Tuesday after the feast of St Laurence).1 En route, the King continued to issue a stream of commands relating to Irish lands and hostages.2 One of the Anglo-Irish landholders rewarded at this time, Geoffrey Lutterell, was now sent to join Philip Mark and the garrison at Nottingham.3 In what appears to have been an ongoing attempt at least to appear to repair past wrongs, Philip himself was instructed to enquire into a fine made by the late justiciar, Geoffrey fitz Peter, for a Nottingham heir. If the money had been paid by Geoffrey's son, the rebel leader, Geoffrey de Mandeville, then Philip was to grant him seisin.4 John Marshal, whose ascent in royal favour continued, was now confirmed not only as sheriff of Dorset and Somerset but as keeper of the counties' ports.5 At the same time, he secured recital in the chancery rolls of an early order, of February 1215, promising him an annual rent of 25 marks from the Dublin Exchequer in return for land that he had surrendered in Ireland to the King of Connaught.6 Ireland and its lords remained as crucial to the King's concerns as had been the case throughout June and July 1215.

Halesowen Abbey

Halesowen Abbey

Amongst routine acts of patronage, including the grant of a penny a day to an anchoress living at Preshute outside Marlborough, we find the King insisting that Brockhurst Castle (at Church Stretton in Shropshire) be restored by William fitz Alan to a servant of the chief forester, Hugh de Neville, to hold as it had been held before the dispute between King and barons.7 Walter de Cantiloupe, whose career in and around the court was to last for a further half century, acquired another living in the King's gift.8 At Clarendon on 8 April, the King issued the only charter recorded this week: a major gift, conferring the manor of Halesowen upon Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, there to found a Premonstratensian abbey. Hales itself had previously enjoyed close connections to the Welsh princes. Its gift to Bishop Peter was undoubtedly intended as a thank offering, both for Peter's service as justiciar in 1214, and for his loyalty at (and since) Runnymede.9 A grant of a Jew's house at Lincoln to Jordan of Ashby might be considered routine were it not for the fact that Walter of Coventry reports the baronial seizure of the city, although not the castle of Lincoln in early June 1215. In these circumstances, the King's disposal of property there suggests hopes that royal order had been restored.10 The bishop of Coventry, the former Exchequer servant William of Cornhill, was asked to make enquiries into what might or might not have been taken by the King during the late vacancy in his see, with orders to William of Ely, the King's treasurer, to believe whatever Bishop William might tell him.11 Two of the most interesting letters recorded this week were entered on the dorse of the Patent Roll. One, issued at Cirencester on 3 August, requests a loan of up to 13 marks for R. late abbot of Thornton (in Lincolnshire) going as the King's envoy to Rome.12 We have already considered the role played by envoys in carrying messages to the Pope from the King against the barons. Was the abbot of Thornton's departure part of this same highly political mission? At the same time, and in what might be considered an entirely routine command, Robert de Bella Aqua was commanded to attend the King's justices at Oxford on Monday 17 August (the Monday after the feast of the Assumption), to answer for his land at Upton in Northamptonshire.13 Two things are highly significant here. The first is the tacit assumption that the King's justices would once again meet to adjudicate matters of law: something that had not happened with any regularity since the collapse of the court of common pleas, earlier in the Spring. The second is that these justices were expected to meet at Oxford. Here we have independent confirmation of the claims of the Crowland chronicler that (in accordance with the term set in the London Treaty made at Runnymede, and perhaps in resumption of the negotiations that had faltered at Oxford in late July) a conference was summoned by Langton and the bishops to be held immediately after the feast of the Assumption (15 August) at which, it was hoped, enmity might at last be buried. For this, according to the chronicler, the King and bishops were summoned to meet at Oxford, the barons at Brackley.14


RLP, 152. The same term, 11 August, is set in letters to the reeves of Southampton demanding that wine be dispatched to Clarendon 'in timely fashion' ('tempestiue'): RLC, i, 225.


RLP, 151b-2 (the wood of 'Catelerch' in Thomond for Geoffrey de Lutterell, land for the native Irish, release of hostages including Adam Rudipat and hostages of William Parvus, Richard Dullart, and at least seven hostages of Walter de Lacy including Gilbert de Lacy and Richard de Twyt); RLC, i, 224b (enquiry into the rights on the Liffy of the prior and convent of Holy Trinity Dublin); Rot.Ob., 561 (fine from Hugh de Berneval), and for further orders concerning the restoration of Walter de Lacy, see RLC, i, 224; Rot.Ob., 562-4, including the restoration of whatever ships had been taken from him at the time of his forfeiture.


RLP, 152, and for counsel that the King took from Geoffrey this week, over affairs in the west of Ireland, Rot.Ob., 565.


Rot.Ob., 562, a fine of 20 marks and a palfrey for the land and heir of Walter de Stratlegh, also referring to a fine of 20 marks which John fitz Philip, another of the baronial leaders, claimed had not been properly honoured.


RLP, 152.


RLP, 152, covering the cantred of Kilmaine ('Kilman') in co. Roscommon, first promised to John Marshal in 1207, for which see H. Perros, 'Crossing the Shannon Frontier: Connacht and the Anglo-Normans, 1170-1224', Colony and Frontier in Medieval Ireland: Essays Presented to J.F. Lydon, ed. T.B. Barry, R. Frame and K. Simms (London, 1995), 131-2.


RLP, 151b-2, and reminders of patronage previously granted to Ranulf de Hurley at Norton in Somerset, and commands that one of Geoffrey de Neville's knights be allowed to build a house within the Yorkshire forest: RLC, i, 224b. The grant of land at Norton had still not been effected by mid August: RLC, i, 224b, 225b.


RLC, 151b (the unidentified church of 'Burton' in the diocese of Lincoln), and for Walter, see King John’s Diary and Itinerary 5-11 April.


RC, 217, and for the circumstances here, see H.M. Colvin, The White Canons in England (Oxford, 1951), 178-83; English Episcopal Acta, ix, ed. Vincent, 10-12 no.13 (Des Roches' foundation charter, probably issued c. 8 August 1215, witnessed by Walter de Gray bishop of Worcester, Simon of Apulia bishop of Exeter, William of Cornhill bishop of Coventry, Pandulf as bishop-elect of Norwich, Hugh Foliot archdeacon of Shrewsbury and a large number of the bishop's own household). For the Welsh connection, VCH Worcestershire, iii, 138ff.


RLC, i, 224b, addressed to the sheriff of Lincolnshire under a rather ambiguous clause 'donec sciamus quid hoc sit', which can perhaps be translated as 'until we have a clue as to what is going on'.


RLP, 152; RLC, i, 224b.


RLP, 181, and for the (by no means clear) succession of abbots at Thornton, see D. Knowles, C.N.L. Brooke and V.C.M. London, The Heads of Religious Houses England and Wales I: 940-1216, 2nd ed. (Cambridge 2001), 186, 286.


RLP, 181.


Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols. (London, 1872-73), ii, 222-3: 'Archiepiscopus autem et episcopi, videntes terram exterminio dari, nunc regem, nunc proceres, de pace commonent, et quia tam ipse quam illi se ea que pacis sunt verbotenus querere confessi sunt, statuunt ut in crastino Assumptionis beate Marie viginis, rex cum ipsis ad Oxoniam, proceres apud Brackele conueniant, quatenus eorum mediatione ibidem omnibus rite completis, omnes de reliquo sopiantur rixe, et sepeliantur inimicitie'.

King John's Diary & Itinerary