Fine of the Month: January 2007
1. The fine rolls, Godfrey of Crowcombe and the Oxfordshire offices
One of the most important questions the Henry III Fine Rolls project aims to address is the place which the fine rolls held in English administration. In this month's fine, David Carpenter demonstrates some of the ways in which business enrolled on the fine rolls changed and developed and how the rolls fitted into record keeping and accounting processes.
⁋1In the first third of the thirteenth century there were significant developments in the material and business recorded on the fine rolls. At the start of John’s reign, the rolls are little more than lists of the money offered the king for concessions and favours. In that form they were copied and sent to the exchequer so it knew what money to collect, the copy coming to be called the originalia roll. Gradually, however, it became the practice to include with the offer of money a summary of an accompanying writ, a writ which might, most typically, order the sheriff to take security for the payment and, having done so, give possession to the beneficiary of what had been fined for. It is only with this development that it is possible to give precise dates to fines, the date now being derived from the dating clause of the letter. A second development was the growing practice of including on the rolls material unrelated to fines but still of interest to the exchequer. A prime example are the copies of letters, sometimes addressed directly to the exchequer, sometimes not, about the terms on which sheriffs and other local officials were to hold office. The pace and reasons for these changes will repay future investigation. What is offered here is a study of some writs which illustrate the second development, writs related to Godfrey of Crowcombe’s tenure of the sheriffdom Oxfordshire, Oxford castle and the king’s manor of Woodstock.
⁋2Godfrey of Crowcombe was steward of Henry III’s household from 1225 and also a much traveled diplomat. He had no time to run Oxfordshire in person, yet the writs on the fine rolls show very clearly his desire to hold on to the Oxfordshire offices and improve, from his point of view, the financial terms on which they were held. They also reflect the way Godfrey’s varying political fortunes impacted on this ambition. For Godfrey the county and castle of Oxford and the keepership of Woodstock represented wealth, power and status. As sheriff he ruled over an important midlands county. As castellan of Oxford, he enjoyed what almost became his own private castle. As keeper of Woodstock, he played host to the court when it visited the palace, and shared with the young king schemes for its improvement. As both sheriff and keeper, he made money. This does not mean such curial custodies had no corresponding value to the king and the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, who ran day to day government in the 1220s. Admittedly, there was no political or strategic purpose in putting Godfrey into Oxfordshire at the end of 1225. His predecessor, the county knight, Walter of Foliot, was a perfectly safe pair of hands. None the less, a spread of curial sheriffdoms enabled the government to keep tabs on the localities, and also increased the power of men who were major pillars of the regime. Both Godfrey and his fellow steward, Ralph fitz Nicholas (sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire between 1224 and 1236), became more formidable players for the king as well as well as for themselves by combining their positions at court with office in the localities, or at least that was the idea. 1
⁋3Godfrey of Crowcombe came from a Somerset gentry family. Crowcombe, his ancestral home, lies beside the Quantock hills. Quite probably, as Stephen Church has suggested, he owed his start as household knight of King John, to Hubert de Burgh. 2 Probably too he owed to Hubert his appointment in 1225 both to the stewardship and the Oxfordshire offices. The writ for the latter was certainly attested by the king in Hubert’s presence. 3 Four years later, however, both men suffered a check. When Henry found that the preparations for his planned expedition to Brittany were incomplete, he turned furiously on Hubert and apparently also on Godfrey who was summarily dismissed from his Oxfordshire offices. 4
⁋4It is at this point that the fine rolls enter the story and in an interesting way. The letter commanding Godfrey to surrender Woodstock to the judge, Robert of Lexington, was enrolled on the close rolls. But at its end there was a note ‘concerning stock and corn etc as in the roll of fines’. 5 Sure enough in the fine rolls we find an order to Godfrey to deliver the stock to Robert together with last autumn’s corn ‘so that he answers the king by his hand for the stock and the aforesaid corn.’ This is then followed by the statement, apparently still within the body of the writ for it precedes the dating clause, that the king had committed Woodstock to Robert ‘as in the close roll’ (literally ‘as in the roll of [letters] close’.) 6 It is plain then that at this point the close rolls and fine rolls were being drawn up in close co-operation since the clerk responsible for the former knew what was happening on the latter and vice versa. 7 It is equally clear that these clerks (or clerk) were distinguishing between writs with business appropriate for the close roll and those with business appropriate for the fine roll. The basis of the distinction is, I think, fairly clear. The fine roll letter was enrolled there because it contained information that the exchequer needed to know, namely that Lexington was to account for the stock and corn. True the letter was addressed to Godfrey of Crowcombe, not the exchequer, but (and this is the key point), the exchequer would still have received it via the originalia roll, the copy of the fine roll, as we have said, sent to the exchequer. Unfortunately, the originalia roll of 1228-9 does not survive so we cannot test this hypothesis, but later originalia rolls certainly contain writs with financial information of this kind as well as simply fines.
⁋5In the event relations between Henry III and his two ministers soon straightened themselves out. The expedition was postponed till the following spring and in November Godfrey recovered his Oxfordshire offices. 8 Next year, he improved the terms on which they were held, being allowed to answer henceforth for a 30 mark annual increment above the old farm of the county. This helped Godfrey because previously he had accounted for all the issues above the farm, his private gain being limited to a £40 annual allowance. Now, having paid the 30 mark increment, he could pocket all he made. Since the concession was made as the king arrived at Portsmouth prior to embarking for Brittany, it was probably a reward for Godfrey’s participation in the expedition. The concession itself was announced in a letter address directly to the exchequer. It could, therefore, have been enrolled on the close rolls since there was no need for it to reach the exchequer via the fine roll, originalia roll process. None the less, it is on the fine rolls that it appears, testimony to the growing sense that it was there that writs dealing with terms of account belonged. 9 Thus it was likewise on the fine rolls that next year the writ was enrolled which told the exchequer to exempt Godfrey from any future account for the manor of Benson. 10
⁋6On the same day as this concession over Benson (21 December 1231), Godfrey obtained a much greater favour. Previously he had held the county and castle of Oxford and the manor, houses and park of Woodstock merely during the king’s pleasure. Now he was granted them for life. At the same time his private profit was increased. First, the increment he owed above the county farm was reduced from thirty to twenty marks. Second, instead of accounting for all the issues of Woodstock above the farm, he was now simply to account for the farm itself, leaving him with everything raised above it. This concession was embodied in a letter patent which was naturally enrolled on the patent rolls. Of course, the exchequer needed to know about it, and it was indeed informed through what seems to have been a letter close. That letter might well, according to developing practice, have been enrolled on the fine rolls, as was indeed to be the case with a similar letter in January 1233, but since only the briefest record of it was deemed necessary, this was included on the patent roll after the text of the concession. 11
⁋7Life grants of office were always coveted, but more as signs of status than guarantees of security. In practice, they never lasted longer than the king’s favour, as Godfrey was soon to find out. In 1232 he inevitably became caught up in the great struggle during which Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, managed to eject his old enemy, Hubert de Burgh, from office. 12 Godfrey too became a marked man. The first blow fell in October 1232, two months after Hubert’s fall, when he was removed from the sheriffdom of Oxfordshire despite the letters patent granting it to him for life less than a year before. 13 The terms on which the new sheriff was to hold office were recorded again on the fine rolls but in a memorandum rather than a letter, the intention presumably being that this would reach the exchequer via the originalia roll. 14 Godfrey, however, was far from beaten. He remained at court at, and continued to hold Oxford castle and Woodstock under the terms of his letters patent, as the memorandum itself acknowledged. Indeed, he was soon to improve his position. In January 1233, when the king was at Woodstock planning building works, he once again granted Godfrey Oxford castle and Woodstock for life. 15 This time, however, the concession was made by charter, a distinct step up from the previous letter patent. The charter, moreover, specified, as the letter patent did not, that Godfrey should receive a £15 annual allowance for keeping Woodstock. This probably meant he was making well over £20 a year more from the custody than when he had simply been answering for all the issues above the farm. Godfrey’s charter was naturally enrolled on the charter rolls, but it is on the fine rolls that we find the accompanying letter close to the exchequer, this time with its terms copied out in full, doubtless to make quite sure the exchequer got them correctly and observed them. 16 Even so, it took another letter to the exchequer, again enrolled on the fine rolls, to ensure that Godfrey enjoyed these terms from October 1231. 17
⁋8It was all to no avail. In May 1233, a month after this last concession, Godfrey was sacked from court and stripped of Oxford castle and Woodstock. 18 His successor, Engelard de Cigogné, was appointed by a later patent but next year, when the exchequer was informed of the terms on which he was to hold Woodstock, it was by a letter close enrolled on the fine rolls. 19 Godfrey now endured eight months in the wilderness until, with the weakening of the des Roches regime in February 1234, he returned. 20 He recovered his stewardship and also his Oxfordshire offices, putting his nephew and former ward, John le Brun, into the sheriffdom, and taking the castle and Woodstock for himself, the two last for life under the terms of a new charter issued in June 1234. We have no copy of this charter since the charter roll for 1233–34 is lost, but fortunately all its details were embodied in a letter close to the exchequer, a letter once again enrolled on the fine rolls. 21
⁋9In the event, Godfrey’s life grant proved no more protection than it had before. In the great financial reforms of 1236, he like many other curiales, lost all their local offices. Again it was in letters enrolled on the fine rolls that the details of the new appointments were recorded. 22 In terms of office, Godfrey’s dismissal in 1236 terminated his Oxfordshire story. He held on to his stewardship till the end of January 1237 but then disappears from court. It was not, however, quite the end. Remarkably, in 1244–45, forty years after he had first appeared there, and two years before his death, Godfrey made a final return to court.
⁋10I have not touched on many aspects of Godfrey’s extraordinary career in which he traveled four times to the papal court, and amassed an estate of baronial proportions. I hope before too long to publish a full study. What appears here will, however, be of value if it shows how the material on the fine rolls expands, thus providing unique information about the terms on which the king’s agents held local office, and revealing in Godfrey‘s case, his ambition to profit from his Oxfordshire custodies and on hold on to them for life.
2.1. C 60/28 Fine Roll 13 Henry III (28 October 1228–27 October 1229), membrane 1
⁋1Order to G. of Crowcombe to cause the king’s stock in the manor of Woodstock to be delivered to Robert of Lexington by the view and testimony of law-worthy men, with the corn of this autumn last past, so that he answers the king by his hand both for the stock and the aforesaid corn. The king has committed the manor of Woodstock to Robert with the buildings there to keep for as long as it pleases the king, as in the Close roll. 23 [Portsmouth, 19 October 1229.]
2.2. C 60/29 Fine Roll 14 Henry III (28 October 1229–27 October 1230), membrane 6
⁋1 Concerning the custody of the castle and county of Oxford. To the barons of the Exchequer. For the custody of the king’s castle and county of Oxford, which the king has committed to his beloved and faithful Godfrey of Crowcombe for as long as it pleases the king, the king has granted him his meadow of Oxford and the mill pertaining to the custody of the same castle, and the profit of the county of Oxfordshire, so that, in each year for as long as he will have that custody, he is to render 30 m. to the king from that profit at the Exchequer, namely 15 m. at the Exchequer of Michaelmas and 15 m. at the Exchequer of Easter. The king has also committed to Godfrey, for as long as it pleases the king, the custody of the king’s manor and houses of Woodstock with appurtenances, so that he answers at the Exchequer for all issues and revenues, as the custodian is bound to answer. Order to cause this to be enrolled and done thus. [Portsmouth, 18 April 1230.]
2.3. C 60/31 Fine Roll 16 Henry III (28 October 1231–27 October 1232), membrane 7
⁋121 Dec. Guildford. For Godfrey of Crowcombe. The king has granted to Godfrey of Crowcombe that, in the process of time, he and his heirs are not to be penalized for the account that he was accustomed to render for the manor of Benson, one namely by itself concerning the same manor and the other, as is said, concerning the members of the same manor, notwithstanding that he did not or does not render such account for the aforesaid manor and its members separately while he was and is in the future the sheriff of Oxfordshire. Order to the barons of the Exchequer to cause this to be enrolled and to cause Godfrey and his heirs to be quit, as aforesaid.
2.4. C 60/31 Fine Roll 16 Henry III (28 October 1231–27 October 1232), membrane 1
⁋1[No date]. Concerning the custody of the county of Oxford. Memorandum. The king has committed the county of Oxford to John of Hulcote to keep for as long as it pleases the king, so that he will have all proftis from the body of the county with the manor of Bloxham towards his sustenance, excepting the 20 m. from the same profits for which he will answer at the Exchequer, and saving to G. of Crowcombe the custody of the king’s houses of Woodstock and the castle of Oxford, with the mill and meadow pertaining to the same castle, and with the manor of Woodstock and its appurtenances, as the same G. has them for life by the king’s letters patent. [21 October 1232]
2.5. C 60/32 Fine Roll 17 Henry III (28 October 1232–27 October 1233), membrane 8
⁋1 Concerning the custody of the castle of Oxford and the manor of Woodstock. The king has granted to Godfrey of Crowcombe, by his charter, the custody of the castle of Oxford with the park and mill pertaining to the castle, and with all other things that pertain to that castellanship, to have from the king and his heirs for life. And the king has also granted to him, for himself and his heirs, by the same charter, the custody of the manor, houses and park of Woodstock with the hamlets of Hanborough, Stonesfield, Combe, Hordley and Bermynton, and all other things pertaining to the same manor, to have and hold from the king and his heirs similarly for life, answering each year by his hand at the Exchequer for £39 4s., as other keepers of the same manor with appurtenances were accustomed to answer in the times of King R., the king’s uncle, and King John, the king’s father, as is contained in rolls of the Exchequer from the aforesaid times of the king’s uncle and father, namely £18 for the farm of Hanborough, £14 for the farm of Stonesfield and Combe, 64s. for the farm of Hordley, and £4 for the farm of Bermynton, allowing Godfrey £15 each year in the same farms, which the king has granted to him and his heirs annually for the custody of the manor of Woodstock, the hamlets, park and houses, as was accustomed to be allowed to other keepers of the same manor for the same custody in the times of the king’s aforesaid uncle and father, as is contained in the rolls of the Exchequer according to an inquisition taken by the barons of the Exchequer by order of the king. Order to the same barons to cause this to be done and enrolled thus. [Woodstock, 7 January 1233].
2.6. C 60/32 Fine Roll 17 Henry III (28 October 1232–27 October 1233), membrane 6
⁋1 For G. of Crowcombe. Godfrey of Crowcombe held the king’s manor of Woodstock with appurtenances by bail of the king from the sixteenth year, rendering the ancient farm at the Exchequer. And because it is contained in the rolls of the Exchequer, and the barons of the Exchequer have signified to the king that the ancient farm is £39 4s. according to the particulars of the same farm contained in the charter of the king by which he caused the custody of the aforesaid manor to be made over the same G., order to the same barons to cause him to be quit of the custody of the aforesaid manor by the aforesaid farm from the aforesaid year, allowing him £15 in the same farm for the custody of the aforesaid manor, as the king granted to him by his aforesaid charter and as they were accustomed to be allowed to other keepers of the same manor in the times of the predecessors of the king, kings of England. By the justiciar. [Stratford, 19 April 1233].
2.7. C 60/33 Fine Roll 18 Henry III (28 October 1233 - 27 October 1234), membrane 8
⁋1 For Engelard de Cigogné. The king has committed the manor of Woodstock with hamlets and other appurtenances to Engelard de Cigogné to keep for as long as it pleases the king and to answer at the Exchequer for £24 4s. per annum, saving the custody of the king’s houses and park there. The king has also committed the manor of Wootton, formerly of Albrea former countess of Salisbury, which is in the king’s hand by reason of the death of the aforesaid countess, to Engelard to keep for as long it pleases the king and to answer for £24 £12 (sic.) 5½d. at the Exchequer per annum. Order to the barons of the Exchequer to cause this to be done and enrolled thus. [Westminster, 6 Feb.].
2.8. C 60/33 Fine Roll 18 Henry III (28 October 1233–27 October 1234), membrane 6
⁋127 June. Kennington. Concerning the castle of Oxford, committed to G. of Crowcombe. Concerning the manor of Woodstock. To the barons of the Exchequer. 24 The king, by his charter, has granted to Godfrey of Crowcombe, for himself and his heirs, the custody of the king’s castle of Oxford with the meadow and mill pertaining to the aforesaid castle and all other things pertaining to that castellanship, to have and hold from the king and his heirs for life. The king has also granted to the same Godfrey, for himself and his heirs, the custody of the manor, houses and park of Woodstock with the hamlets of Hanborough, Stonesfield, Combe, Hordley and Bermynton and all other things pertaining to the same manor, to have and hold from the king and his heirs similarly for life, answering each year by his hand at the Exchequer for £39 4s., as other keepers of the same manor with appurtenances were accustomed to answer in the times of King Richard, the king’s uncle, and King John, the king’s father, as is contained in the rolls of the Exchequer from the times of the aforesaid King Richard, the king’s uncle, and King John, the king’s father, namely £18 for the farm of Hanborough, £14 for the farm of Stonesfield and Combe, 64s. for the farm of Hordley, and £4 for the farm of Bermynton. The £15 which the king, for himself and his heirs, granted to Godfrey annually for the custody of the manor of Woodstock and the hamlets, houses and park are to be allowed to him in the same farms, as they were accustomed to be allowed to other keepers of the same manor for the same custody in the times of the aforesaid uncle of the king and of his father, as is contained in the rolls of the Exchequer according to an inquisition taken herein by the barons of the Exchequer by the king’s order. He has further granted to Godfrey of Crowcombe, and has confirmed by this charter, for himself and his heirs, the custody of his manor of Wootton, which is a member of the manor of Woodstock, with the hundred and other appurtenances both in demesnes and in rents, aids and all issues, to have and hold from the king and his heirs for life, rendering £23 12s. 6½d. at the Exchequer annually for all services. Order to cause the aforesaid charter to be read in their presence and to cause it to be done and enrolled thus.
- For curial sheriffdoms and their decline see chapter 8 of D.A. Carpenter, The Reign of Henry III (1996), an article reprinted from English Historical Review for 1976. Back to context...
- S. D. Church, The Household Knights of King John (Cambridge, 1999), p. 32. There are many references to Godfrey in Church’s book. Back to context...
- PR 1225–32, p. 9; RLC, ii, p. 92. Back to context...
- Matthaei Parisiensis … Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard, 7 vols. (Rolls series, 1872–83), iii, pp. 190–91; CR 1227–31, p. 221; PR 1225–32, p. 313. Back to context...
- CR 1227–31, p. 221. Back to context...
- CFR 1228–29, no. 512. See below. Back to context...
- Both are ‘witnessed as above’, the above in the fine rolls being 15 October and in the close rolls 19 October. The close roll letter is, however, only six items from the above whereas the fine roll letter is over sixty. I suspect both letters were drawn up on 19 October: CR 1227–31, p. 220; CFR 1228–29, no. 444. Back to context...
- PR 1225–32, p. 313. The pipe rolls show Lexington never accounted. Back to context...
- CFR 1229–30, no. 260. See below. Back to context...
- CFR 1231–32, no. 30. See below. Back to context...
- PR 1225–32, p. 455; the gist of the letter to exchequer was enrolled on the pipe roll: E 372/ 66, m. 18. Back to context...
- For these events see Carpenter, The Reign of Henry III, chapter 3 on the fall of Hubert de Burgh and, in more detail, N. Vincent, Peter des Roches. An Alien in English Politics 1205–1238, chapter 8. Back to context...
- It is just possible that Godfrey had been removed from his stewardship by sometime in July although he remained at court: see N. Vincent, ‘Simon de Montfort’s first quarrel with King Henry III’, Thirteenth Century England IV. Proceedings of the Newcastle upon Tyne Conference 1991, ed. P.R. Coss and S. Lloyd (Woodbridge, 1992), pp. 174–75. Back to context...
- CFR 1231–32, no. 304. See below. Back to context...
- CLR 1226–40, p. 194; E 372/ 77. m. 18. Back to context...
- C. Ch. R. 1226–57, p. 174; CWL, i, p. 126; CFR 1232–33, no. 87 (for which, see below); D.A. Carpenter, ‘Sheriffs of Oxfordshire and their subordinates 1194-1236’ (unpublished university of Oxford D. Phil. thesis, 1973), p. 204. For the exchequer’s enrolment of the letter sent to it: Memoranda Rolls 1231–33, no. 2808. Back to context...
- CFR 1232–33, no. 174 (for which, see below); E 372/ 76, m. 18. The letter patent of December 1231 had simply said that Godfrey was to hold Woodstock at the due and accustomed farm: PR 1225–32, p. 455. There seems to have been debate about what that was because the king subsequently ordered the exchequer, on Godfrey’s behalf, to inquire in its rolls what previous keepers had answered for in the time of Henry II and Richard I, and what allowance they had received: Memoranda Rolls 1231–33, no. 223. This writ seems to have been omitted from the chancery rolls and on the memoranda rolls has no date but it probably belongs to November, December 1232. The charter embodied the results of the inquiry although puzzlingly the pipe rolls have no accounts for Woodstock before 1224. Back to context...
- Carpenter, ‘Sheriffs of Oxfordshire’, pp. 244–45; Vincent, Peter des Roches, p. 376. Back to context...
- CPR 1232–47, p. 16. CFR 1233–34, no. 154. See below. Back to context...
- For the date see Vincent, Peter des Roches, p. 433. Back to context...
- CFR 1233–34, no. 235. See below. Back to context...
- C 60/ 35, mm. 11–9; R.C. Stacey, Politics, Policy and Finance under Henry III 1216–1245 (Oxford, 1987), p. 52 n. 28. Chapter 2 of Stacey’s book contains a definitive account of the reforms. Back to context...
- CR 1227–31, p. 221. Back to context...
- Corrected from ‘To the archbishops etc.’ Back to context...