The Red Book: Introduction







By the kindness of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (in whose keeping it is) I have been able to transcribe a manuscript containing a survey of the Hereford Bishopric Estates, made in the second half of the thirteenth century. It is called by Swithun Butterfield (who, in 1577-8, made a more detailed survey), "The Redd Book" - and (perhaps on that account) was rebound in red leather in 1906, the original vellum cover, however, being bound in.

The manuscript (11 inches x 9 inches) has been paged in arabic numerals in a very late hand. And the actual survey (Rentals and Extents) begins on what is numbered as "pa. 47" - the documents which make up the previous 23 leaves having been bound in, probably long before Butterfield examined the book.These documents are:-

(1) An Inspeximus of Edward I (dated Westminster, Jan. 29, anno reign nostri Anglie vicesimo mono, regni vero nostri Francie sextodecimo) of king Stephen's charters to Bishop Robert de Bethune, granting the liberties of the Bishopric. [1]

(2) An Inspeximus of Edward I (dated as above) of the Domesday entries relating to the lands of the Church of Hereford.

(3) An Inspeximus (dated Westminster, July 16, 30 Ed. I) of a Perambulation of the Forest of Dene, tempore domini H. quondam Regis Anglie, proavi nostri.

(4) "Sequitur copia carte regis Ricardi IIdi impetrate per reverendum patrem Johannem Trefnant etc. confirmatorie privilegiorum". [2]

(5) Page 45 is blank: and written on "pa. 46" (with no title or rubric) is the following:-

"I become yor man from this day forward of life and lymme and of worldly worshipe: And feith I shal bere you for the tenemente which I hold of you, saving the feith that I owe to oure soveraygne lord the Kyng

[1] Printed in Capes, Charters and Records of Hereford Cathedral, p. 8.
[2] Printed Reg. Trefnant (ed. Capes, p. 39).


and to myne eldurre lordis, so help me God at his holy dome: And by my trothe".

"And I, as youre lord of soch landis and tenementes as ye hold of me by knyghten service, for the which ye have done yor homage unto me, I accept you and take you as my tenante and trewe homagere".

Then follows the actual survey, pp. 47-206. At the end is bound in yet another document:- Evidencie extracte de libro feodorum et aliis (1 Ed. III.).

The Rentals of the various manors are in several different hands, and would seem to have been written at different times. The only date given is for the Extenta of Bishop's Castle, which is 1285, in quite a separate document, as is also the Extenta of Prestbury. The accounts of these two distant estates were evidently kept entirely apart, though here bound up with the rest. There are, however, in several places, phrases which suggest that the rentals of the various manors were not all drawn up in the same year. Thus, among the free tenants of the Barton of Hereford, Giles de Avenbury and the Dean of Hereford are named separately as holding curtilages. Now Giles was himself Dean before 1253, when he was ejected by the "Burgundian" faction in the Chapter: and he recovered the Deanery in 1270. The Rental, therefore, of the Hereford Barton was probably drawn up between these dates. But in the Rental of Ledbury Foreign there is noted the recovery of certain rents which had been concealed for the first six years of Swinfield's episcopate, i.e. 1283-1288. This would make the returns from Ledbury later than the (dated) Extenta of Bishop's Castle. But it is likely that all the returns are based on those of earlier date. For, at the end of that from Colwall is a note, in a somewhat later hand: Facta collacione concordat cum veteri originali.

The manors held by the Bishop of Hereford in the thirteenth century, of which details are given in this manuscript, are the following:- Barton (juxta Herefordiam): Tupsley: Shelwick: Hampton: Eton (juxta Sugwas). Ross (burgus et forinsecus): Upton: Bromyard (burgus et forinsecus): Whitbourne: Frome (episcopi): Grendon: Ledbury (burgus et forinsecus): Eastnor: Cradley: Bosbury: Colwall: Prestbury Sevenhampton: Bishop's Castle: Lydbury North. Very little is known as to the time or the circumstances under which the Bishop became possessed of these manors, since no early records remain. The Saxon charters recording grants to the Bishop and his Church were doubtless


destroyed in 1055, when Hereford was taken by the Welsh and the Cathedral burnt. From one of the few charters still existing [1] it would seem that the Bishop already possessed lands at Frome and Bromyard circ. 840. And of Prestbury it is said, as early as 803, that its lands olim in antiquis diebus ad Herefordensem ecclesiam praestita fuerunt. [2] But exactly how and when the Church of Hereford acquired any of its lands we have no means of knowing. The (unspecified) grants said to have been made to Hereford by Offa, in atonement for the murder of St. Ethelbert, are the mere invention of a later age. And (in spite of its "confirmation" by the Pope, some three centuries after the alleged event) [3] the story of Milfrid's building and endowing the Cathedral is, says Stubbs bluntly, "of course apocryphal". Nor is there any documentary evidence for the endowments of Edmund Ironsides at Ross, [4] nor for Egwin Shakehead's gift of Lydbury North. [5] The Pope, in 1184, says that all the Hereford acquisitions were obtained largitione regum velprincipum, oblatione fidelium seu aliis justis modis, [6] which is doubtless correct, but does not help us much as to details. We know, however, that Wulfhere, son of the heathen King Penda, was an enthusiastic Christian, and during the seventeen years of his vigorous reign (659-675) did much to spread the new faith in Western Mercia. He appointed as sub-regulus of the Magasaetas (i.e. men of Herefordshire) his brother Merewald, who founded a convent at Leominster, and helped his daughter to found the abbey of Wenlock. Most of the family, full of the zeal of the newly-converted, lived on to the end of the century, or nearly so; and it may be taken as certain that, among their many ecclesiastical activities, the endowment of the infant church on the Wye found a place, though of this no record remains.

In Domesday the rubric Terra Ecclesie instead of Terra Episcopi is peculiar to the lands of Hereford and Worcester, and in the five columns of Hereford entries the lands of the Bishop and those of the Canons are inextricably intermingled. But all the manors held by the Bishop in the thirteenth century are given as already his in 1086.

Among the Bishop's tenants who hold by military service are many of the leading Lords of the March - the Earl of Hereford,[7]

[1] Capes, Ch. and Rec., p. 1.
[2] Haddan and Stubbs, 544.
[3] Capes, Ch. and Rec., p. 6.
[4] Walter Map, De Nug., p. 20.
[5] Ibid., 79-82.
[6] Capes, Ch. and Rec., p. 32.
[7] In the Swinfield Register (ed. Capes, p. 389) is an entry recording at length the homage done by Humphry de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, to the Bishop, for the lands he held from him.


the Earl of Warwick, John Giffard, Roger de Clifford, John de Solers, and others. [1] The free and customary tenants are largely English; though in Herefordshire - so near to Wales, and the most thoroughly Normanized of all the English counties - one would have expected a greater proportion of Welsh or Norman names.

The details of customary rents, the commuting of labour services, ward duty, and the like, may be studied in the accounts of the various manors. [2] There are the usual ploughings and carryings, many payments de dono et melle, and, from certain manors, day's work in the Bishop's vineyard at Donnington, [3] or the conveying of the Bishop's letters throughout the diocese. The custom-tenants of Eton-Sugwas acted as custodians of the Bishop's fair at Hereford on St. Ethelbert's Day; while at Ledbury one tenant debet fugare animalia de loco in locum, and another debet custodire latrones et si evaserint, debet inde respondere. There are some services, which seem peculiar to these manors - arrare et seminare sumptibus suis, que vocatur la Rede [4] - arrare ix seliones terre in quibus seminabunt proprio custu ix trugas frumenti, que vocatur ffeda - quedam consuetudo que vocatur benrip [5] - ffaldfey, about which nothing is said. [6] Also 31 burgesses of Bromyard dant annuatim secundum consuetudinem que vocatur tricesima, et non computantur in redditu burgi.

In three little towns of the Bishop are shops (seldae). At Ross there are 9, each paying iiid, and among the holders are Adam le Mercer, Hugo ffullo, and Adam Aurifaber. At Bromyard are 26, each paying iiid: nearly all the names of the holders are personal, but there are 4 "Mercers", and Milo Piscator and Radulphus le Taylour. In Ledbury are 37 seldae, among whose holders are

[1] In the Swinfield Register (pp. 403-406) is a list of the military fees held under the Bishop in 1304, agreeing in almost every detail with these returns from the manors, which are perhaps twenty years earlier.
[2] Swithun Butterfield spent, he says, the greater part of three years studying the Court Rolls of the Hereford episcopal manorial courts; and he gives an interesting account of what he finds there as to the customs of the manors (see Eng. Hist. Rev., April, 1928).
[3] In 1289 this vineyard yielded seven casks of white wine (Household Roll of Bishop Swinfi eld, p. 59).
[4] In the summa valoris of Whitbourne and of Frome is the qualification exceptis perquisitis, escaetis, nemoribus et Reda.
[5] This may be analogous to the custom of benearth described by Vinogradoff, Vil. in Engl., p. 281.
[6] Quedam consuetudines, videlicet, tak et tol, et ffaldfey, et sanguinem emere.


Aluredus le Mercer, Willelmus le ffolar, Galfridus Pelliparius, Walterus Plumber, Nicholas Pistor, and Galfridus Aurifaber.

Among the Bishop's tenants are clerics paying rent exactly as do the laymen - the Dean and several Canons of the Cathedral, the Prior of St. Guthlac's, and of Llanthony. But with the Friars apparently there was friction. For tenements in Hereford, entered under the names of laymen as responsible for the rent, are said to be in the hands, some of Dominicans jam diu, and others of Franciscans modo.

The total income of the Bishopric, as deduced from these returns, is 788 19s. 4d., to which must be added the (fluctuating and incidental) perquisites, escheats, etc., which are not reckoned in. This is considerably more than the amount given in the Taxatio of 1291, which is 506 14s. 11d. In a letter written in 1283 (i.e. about the time these returns were taken) Swinfield says that Hereford is une des mendres evesches de Engleterre kaunt a la value; [1] though, according to the Taxatio, Worcester, Coventry and Lichfield, Exeter and Rochester are less valuable. In 1317 Adam Orleton, Swinfield's successor in the see, binds himself to pay Swinfield's executors 744, in four instalments, for the standing crops, oxen, carthorses and implements on the manors of the bishopric. [2]

[1] Reg. Swinfield, p. 2.
[2] Reg. Orleton, ed. Bannister, p. 58.


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