« PreviousContinue »
By Rev. F. T. Wethered, M.A.
OOMSDAY (commenced in 1080 and finished in 1086)
D tells us that Herlei was owned by Esgar, probably a
Saxon or Dane (who was chief staller to King Edward the Confessor). It speaks of "Terra Goisfridi de Manneville, in Benes Hd." and goes on "Isdem Gousfridus tenet Herlei. Esgar tenuit de rege Edwardo. Tunc et modo pro 14 hidis una virgata minus. Terra est 18 carucatæ. In dominio sunt 4 carucæ et 25 villani et 12 cotarii cum 15 carucis. Ibi et 12 cotarii cum 15 carucis. Ibi 10 servi et molinum de 20 solidis. Ibi ecclesia et 2 piscaria de i2 solidis et 20 acræ prati. Silva de 5 porcorum. Valet et valuit 12 libras." Thus it appears clear that the Monastery had not at the completion of Doomsday been yet founded; otherwise this General Survey would surely have referred to it; so that, William the Conqueror having died on September 9th, 1087, the Monastery was established, and the church dedicated (to S. Mary), and endowed by Geoffrey de Mandeville at some date between the completion of Doomsday and the Conqueror's death. No doubt Hurley Church was originally built by the Saxons-see the north wall, -and was probably ravaged by Danes in 870, during their occupation of Reading, or else in 894, when they traversed Herlei on their way "up by Temese" from Essex to Gloucestershire (of which march up we are informed by the Saxon Chronicle, and which is attested by an encampment called the Danes Ditches (Danesfield), in the immediate vicinity of Hurley Church); and whereas Herlei, also called Esgareston from having been held by Esgar under King Edward the Confessor, is stated in the Norman Survey to have possessed in the time of the Confessor every possible indication of wealth and prosperity-such as mills, fisheries, meadows, woods and swine-it is not surprising that this beautiful spot should have been at that time in possession of a parish church. It is noticeable that in the neighbourhood there should occur the name of Cividen, by which title the picturesque seat of the Duke of
Westminster (now known as Cliefden) was identified as late as in 1299. In "Liber Niger Quaternum" (Westminster, 12 Dugdale, No. 14), we read of a certain Prior of the (Benedictine) Monastery of Hurley beseeching the King "pro reverentiâ dominæ Edithæ sororis sancti regis Edwardi Confessoris ibidem sepulta," to appropriate to the Monastery the church of "Warefeld," of which the Prior and Convent of Hurley were the patrons, because of their being in much distress at Hurley owing to Thames floods which had destroyed the houses in the village, and had drowned many of its inhabitants-the Convent being obliged to give sanctuary to the survivors; so that we have, here, an instance of the great esteem in which the Confessor held our village (Hurstelega-place of the wood) as indicated by the burial of his sister in this parish.* In a later number of the 'Journal,' I hope to offer some notes in connection with Geoffrey de Mandeville's Charter, a translation of which will then be printed, but I think that preparatory to the appearance of this extremely interesting piece of Berkshire history, it may not be out of place to attempt a short sketch of this ancient parish in chronological order. In the Westminster series of Hurley Charters we find (? in 1090) the founder of our Monastery writing sharply to Edric, his "propositus," and men at Waltham-on account of a heavy complaint made to him by his Prior and Monks at Hurley ("prior et monachi mei de Hurleia michi graviter conquesti sunt") because their wood and "licentia" had been badly laid waste and violated; and the indignant Geoffrey commands his bailiff and the rest 'super feoda vestra" that they are not to let in water upon the Monks' holdings, nor to take anything out of their wood by transgressing their own borders, without leave in writing from the prior and his brethren of the convent; and, that if at any time anything should be necessary for the repair of the houses (in Waltham) or for the repairs of fences they were to get written consent from the aforesaid parties. It is a stern, peremptory, and convincing document, and ends abruptly— "Valete." In (?) 1130, Geoffrey (grandson of the founder of our Monastery), in conjunction with his wife Roesia, grants tithe "Deo et ecclesiæ S. Mariæ elemosinæ suæ de Herleia," and denounces on all who might violate his gift, as follows: "and may their portion be to dwell everlastingly with those who said to the Lord God 'Depart from us, we will have none of thy ways; and, in a Charter to King Stephen (c. 1136), Hurley is again referred to by the last* The date of the document is in Richard II.'s reign, but it is supposed to refer to a much earlier date.
named Geoffrey. A Charter by Henry I. is of exceeding interest in the Westminster series of these old Hurley Deeds, inasmuch as it not only confirms the original grant made by Geoffrey at the instigation of his wife Leceline, in the Conqueror's reign-being addressed to the "justices, viscounts, barons, and all their sub ordinates and to the men of Berkshire (Berchesira) 'Francis et Anglis '-greeting," but also states that he does so pro meâ et matris meæ salute et imperatricis filiæ meæ petitione et animæ suæ redemptione,"—" eâdem Imperatrice" being one of the witnesses, and Roger, Bishop of Salisbury [1107-1139] the other. And then follows "Per Otuelum filium .ois apud Turrim Lundoniæ."
One interesting paragraph in this Charter in favour of the Hurley Priory is as follows: "Et terra et homines ecclesiæ ejusdem, quocumque loco sint per Angliam, sint liberi et quieti de shiris et Hundredis, de placitis, querelis, geldis, Danegeldis, scottis, et auxeliis omnibus et de omnibus operationibus, et occasionibus et exactionibus et assisis, excepto solummodo murdro et probato latrocinio." Pope Adrian IV., in a Bull of 1157 confirmed amongst other possessions to the Abbey of Westminster "Cellum de Hurleyâ cum eâdem villâ cum omni obedientiâ et subjectione, et pertinentiis suis." The Second Henry also confirmed the Charter, and with the following difference in regard to the above paragraph. That is to say-Henry II. writes "Et terra et homines ecclesiæ illius, quo cumque sint loco per Angliam, sint liberi et quieti de siris, et hundredis, et murdro et latrocinio, et danegeldo, et omnibus assisis quæ ad 6 hidas terræ pertinent de dominio eorum, &c."; and, His Majesty concludes his charter" quoniam iste eis pro anima avi mei regis Henrici, et Willhelmi filii mei, concessi, et animæ meæ salute, et reginæ meæ Alienoræ voluntate et petitione." In the Westminster series of Hur. ley Charters is one, made probably at some date anterior to 1175 by Agnes, daughter of William, Constable of Chester, in which she confirms a gift of two hides, given by her father-one in Pyrton (?) and the other in Clewer (?) to Hurley Church; and, in addition, certain woodland which had belonged to Godwin, the Briton. This last named Charter is interesting, too, from the fact that amongst the witnesses-" ex parte Prioris" occur-Richard, the porter; Robert, the miller; and Nicholas, the cook, as holding these several offices in the Hurley Monastery.
In 1190, Richard (probably Fitz Neale), Bishop of London (1189. 1199) confirmed Hurley Charters on October 15th at Cofford. (Walden Register of Hurley Series).
In King John's days the Rolls came in, and in his first year (1199)—Rol. 1.—a plea is introduced into the Courts "Prior de Herle noluit talliari," because his church was a Cell only to Westminster; and in the third year of this Monarch the Pedes Finium have a suit between Robert Fitz Ordgar plaintiff, and Robert, of Luttelnote, defendant, as to half a hide in Hurley, and again in his ninth year King John issued a certain writ to the Priory of Hurley. A curious little episode in the History of the Hurley Cell is given by Widmore (1751) in his history of Westminster Abbey. One Ralph de Arundel, the first Abbot of Westminster who was ever buried in the body of the Abbey, so far as is known, was at one time Prior of Hurley. Having first been Almoner at the Abbey he was removed to preside over the Hurley Cell by Abbot Laurence, but was moved back again to Westminster, on the nomination of the Abbey Monks, by King John on November 30th, 1200. He was finally removed from his high office-after no more eventful incidents in his career at Westminster being recorded of him than his gaining consent from the monks to celebrate the feasts of St. Vincent, St. Laurence, St. Nicholas, and that of the translation of St. Benedict in a more splendid manner than formerly—at the instance of Nicolas, the Pope's legate, in A.D. 1213, in consequence of a scandal and of letting the Abbey get into dilapidation, 39 years after the death of Laurence; and thenceforward he lived upon the manors of Sunbury and Toddington until his death in 1223. While Prior here, we learn from one of the Westminster Series of Hurley Charters, that Arundel 'communi assensu et voluntate conventus Hurleiæ' alienated 4 solidi annually, for ever, from the Prior's revenues in Easthampstead, to enable the Sacristan of Hurley for ever afterwards to supply "honorifice et plenarie," wax tapers at the mass of S. Mary, "quam," he writes, cantare constitui."
In Henry the Third's reign, the Hurley Charters were, for some reason, again confirmed by William, Bishop of London, at Hadham, (Walden Register of Hurley Series), under date November 26th, 1218. An incident of another sort occurred at this period of our Parish History. In the ninth year of this Henry a writ was issued to the Justices of Berkshire to postpone a suit which John, of Hurley, had brought against the master and brethren of the Temple concerning a pond made at Bisham to the injury apparently of Hurley. This is curious. In 1235 Richard, Prior of Hurley, was defendant concerning lands at Hurley; and in 1246 and 1247 Theobald, Prior, was plaintiff as to lands in Hurley. The first of the above-named Priors.
was translated in 1236 to the Abbot of Evesham; he had as a soubriquet Richard le Gras or Crassus (Fat)-or Richard le Grey. This Richard was succeeded by Samson de Eswell. The abovenamed Theobald was in the commission for the visitation of S. Alban's (1251).
On April 29th, 1280, two charters were provided in the forest pleadings at Windsor, which refer to certain Liberties and the Free Warren claimed by Hurley. These are assigned to 1236. In one of them are the words "Beatæ Mariæ de Hurle quæ est cella abbatiæ de Westmonasterio." In 1258 Geoffrey, Prior of Hurley, made an agreement with the Abbot of Walden as to certain tythes, in which occurs an expression concerning the "Anglican" title and description of our Church, which I cannot refrain from quoting, viz., 'quod quotienscunque tallagium vel aliud onus extraordinarium ecclesiæ Anglicana fuerit impositum, &c." Passing over miscellaneous notes, there was a suit as to the tythe of Great Compton in 1320 (referring to the suit going on in May, 1286); and then we come down to a quit claim of the Prior and Brethren of Hurley as to the pension of 100 'solidi,' and the confirmation of the same by the Abbot of Walden. Such are some of the (probably numerous) references to the parish of Hurley from the date of the (conjectured) ravages of Hurley Church towards the close of the 9th century. "So, Age by Age and Year by Year, His grace was handed on ”— until misfortune befel the church in Hurley. Dark days were those of the Reformation period.
In the 26th year of Henry VIII. (1535) the lesser monasteries were suppressed. As for Hurley-in the following year, two 'exchanges' were effected by Act of Parliament, i.e. (1), on the part of the Crown-the site of the Priory of Hurley was bartered, along with many of the lands, for the Manor of Hyde (now included in the London Park, to which the Manor lends its name), of Neyte, Eyberg and Toddington, of the advowson of Chelsea Rectory, some lands at Greenwich, and meadows and closes near the Horseferry, which had been until that time in the possession of Westminster Abbey; and, also, on the part of the Crown, the Great Wood of Hurley, called Hurley Wood, was exchanged for Covent Garden, which until that time had also belonged to Westminster Abbey.* This arrangement, by the crafty Tudor, is remarkable as falsifying the dictum that "exchange is no robbery," since, a few years later, the unhappy Monks of Westminster surrendered to the Crown
* See Widmore's History of Westminster Abbey (1751, p. 127).