The Manor of Clere
and the Canons of Rouen
RECORDED in the Domesday Book the royal demesne manor of Clere lay in
the hundred of Basingstoke, and belonged to the day's revenue of Basingstoke,
which is described as having always been a royal manor. Together with
Hurstbourne [Tarrant] it was responsible for 'one day's provisions'
(firma unius diei) for the royal household. Down to 1207 the sheriff
of Hampshire accounted for the farm of six hundreds dependent on the manor
of Basingstoke. Whether this in any way explains the apparently anomalous
listing of Clere and Hurstbourne Tarrant under the hundred of Basingstoke
is not immediately evident.
The assets of the manor of Clere were described in 1086 as: land for 16 ploughs, meadow 6 acres, a render of 15 pigs from woodland, 2 mills at 100s., tolls 15s., woodland 20s., 2 freedmen 13s., together with 7 slaves, 21 villagers, and 31 smallholders, all of whom would have been bound to the manor in one degree or another. The ploughlands would equate to at most some 2,000 acres of arable land, supporting a population of between 250 and 300 on the manor.
Forty years later the status of the manor changed. No longer was it a royal demesne manor, but for the next two hundred years it was in the possession of the Archbishop and the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Rouen, the capital city of Normandy.
On 2 August 1100 William Rufus was killed and Henry, William the Conqueror's third son who was nearby, rode to Winchester where he took possession of the Treasury, and then to Westminster where three days later he had himself crowned as King of England. Henry's elder brother, Robert II, duke of Normandy, disputed his right to the throne, and the war of succession continued until 1106 when Henry won the battle of Tinchebrai, captured his brother and re-established the Anglo-Norman realm. He was enthroned in the cathedral church of St. Mary Rouen where he swore on the gospels to preserve peace to the Church and Christian people, and received from the hands of the archbishop a golden wedding ring and the sword of state. Normandy was his spouse and he was to guard it with his life.
The importance of the cathedral in the political scheme of things can scarcely be exaggerated. To the dukes of Normandy it was as important, perhaps more important, than Westminster Abbey was to them as kings of England. This is apparent from a brief review of its history. In 911 Rollo, chief of the Vikings who had invaded Normandy, made obedience to Charles the Simple, king of the West Franks, and became the first duke of Normandy. He undertook the restoration of the cathedral that he had burnt, and was baptised there. A little before the year 1000 archbishop Robert commenced the building of a great Romanesque church to replace the earlier one. In 1061 Edward the Confessor granted to the Archbishop and Canons of the cathedral church of Rouen the advowson, manor and hundred of Ottery St. Mary, Devon. The Cathedral was completed in 1063 and on 1 October was consecrated, in the presence of all the bishops of Normandy and of Duke William and his barons. After the conquest William gave to the church of St Mary Rouen the manor of Rawridge in Upottery parish, Devon.
In 1111, Henry I, now Duke of Normandy, caused Godfrey, formerly dean of the chapter of Mans, to be nominated archbishop of Rouen, and sometime between 1115 and 1123 granted to him and the church of St. Mary, Rouen, the manors of Bentworth and Clere in Hampshire. The Kingsclere grant of the latter was;
for the use of the canons in common, of the whole manor of Clere, quit of Danegeld, hidage, pleas, and all customs . . . grant also of the market of the said town, with the hundred and all forfeitures and the justice of their own men, to hold the same with sac, thol, theam, and infangenethef . . .
grant of the manor of Bentworth included the berewite of Burkham, and
was delivered to them as worth £20 a year, to be held in demesne
for their support with all its privileges and dues. Henry's further concern
for the well being of the canons was demonstrated by leaving his crown
of gold, valued at 300 marks, to establish a fund for them.
Between 1154 and 1164 Henry II gave a moiety of the manor of Kilham in Yorkshire to Hugues, Archbishop of Rouen, in compensation for his lost revenue from Gisors, a frontier town between the French and Norman Vexin. It was held by Louis VII from 1145 to 1161, when Henry recovered it.
In 1174 Henry II gave to his beloved clerk, master Walter de Coutances, the chapelry of Blyth with all its appurtenances in churches and chapels, lands and tithes and all else for as long as he shall remain a clerk. At this time Walter, canon treasurer of the church of St. Mary, Rouen, was acting as chancellor of England, a function which he continued to exercise until 1189. In 1184 Walter was elected archbishop of Rouen. When the grant was confirmed by John in 1189 it was worth in excess of £60 a year, and on the death of Walter in 1207 the grant passed to the dean and chapter of Rouen.
The efficient management of their English estates was always to present a problem to the archbishop and the dean and chapter. The archbishops of Rouen were men of considerable eminence, much involved in affairs of state. Of the dean and chapter less is known, but they were men of some status, secular clerks, scarcely a dozen in number, several of whom we know held important posts outside the life of the cathedral. In the time of Henry II, as we have seen, Walter de Coutances, whilst canon-treasurer, was vice-chancellor of England with custody of the great seal. Another canon was chaplain to Queen Eleanor, another to the archbishop of Rouen, and others were archdeacons. The canons had the assistance of about the same number of chaplains, often in minor orders, whose particular duty and expertise was in singing the offices, but because of the shortage of priests to celebrate masses for the dead, chaplaincies were endowed by royalty, guilds, and private persons. Inevitably the management of English estates had to be undertaken by agents, a course which proved unsatisfactory.
In particular, about the year 1145, the management of the estates of the chapter at Ottery was proving a problem. It was decided to grant the manor at ferm to their men of Ottery for the somewhat curious rent of '40 pounds sterling and six marcs and 8 shillings and 10 pence halfpenny, at Rouen.' Two of the canons were to go to Ottery to receive the oath of their vassals, who were to 'provide wholly for the two canons who are going to the manor, going and coming.' That something had gone wrong is evident from the requirement that,
so far as they can, they will cause to be restored, and when restored, will assign to their own demesne, whatever they had of ancient right in their possession at any time, in land and woods, and meadows, and waters, and mills and rents and dues.
That such an arrangement would prove satisfactory seems unlikely, and
the evidence points to the manors being let at farm to men of substance.
The arrangements were made by the chapter's proctor. Thus, in 1262 Etienne
du Pont-Saint-Pierre, clerc, procureur général du Chapitre
de Rouen en Angleterre, arranged the farm of the manor of Kilham
for seven years, and in 1267 let the manor of Ottery to Sir William de
Chaeny for 10 years at £110 a year. The situation at Blyth was more
complex, and there is some evidence of the creation of prebends, but general
principal that lands and benefices were to be farmed is evidenced, and
in 1247 East and West Markham, two of the churches dependant on the chapelry,
were let at farm.
It comes as no surprise therefore to find that in 1271 the manor of Clere was let at farm to Sir William de Wintershull, lord of the manor of Frobury, who in 1272 was Sheriff of Hampshire. The lease was for nine years at an annual rent of 60 marks (£40), and every three years Sir William was to visit Rouen and report the state of the manor. It seems probable that this was not the first time the manor was let at farm, and the Victoria County History goes further in saying that the chapter usually farmed it out, but whilst there is no direct evidence of this, it is interesting to find that after the manor had passed into the hands of the de Melton family, it was still being farmed by a member of the Wintershull family.
The continuing close association of the Dukes of Normandy with the cathedral church was demonstrated in various ways. An undated memorandum records that whilst Henry was Duke of Normandy, that is between 1151 and 1154, he had from the church of Rouen various precious articles, including the gold crown which his grandfather had bequeathed to the canons.. Later, during the war between himself and his son, when the city of Rouen was besieged, he took further ornaments of the church worth some 80 marcs. Then, about 1195, in order to repair the losses sustained by the archbishop and the church of St. Mary Rouen in the course of the war between Richard I and Philip of France, Richard made the church an annual grant of 300 muids of wine. The archbishop was to have 100 muids for his own use and the canons the other two hundred. Walter de Coutances, the archbishop himself, did not hesitate to make use of the treasure of the cathedral in the royal interest. Shortly before his death in 1207, in what appears as a last will and testament, he acknowledged that, whilst acting for the king (vices regias ageram) the treasure of the church was delivered to his envoys by his demand and diminished by 300 marcs, which money was paid to the knights and serjeants of King Richard. The 300 marcs were, however, repaid him in full at the Exchequer in London and applied to his own use, so that he feels obliged to restore the money
Wishing to provide for the weal of his soul and the indemnification of his church, he gives it all his books and all his gold, in whatever form, and his precious stones, set or unset, also his silver vessels for making crosses and other ornaments of the great altar, and further, all the ornaments, books and other furniture of his chapel, almost all taken from the treasure of his church. And even though this should fall short of the money he had taken away, yet his dear canons, moved by their unvarying devotion to him, have freely forgiven him the balance.
In 1145 archbishop Hugh d'Amiens had begun the reconstruction of the cathedral in the gothic style with the erection of the Tour Saint Romaine, whilst his successor, Archbishop Rotrou, continued the work with an impressive reconstruction of the west front. Work was then interrupted for several years, until about 1185, when Walter de Coutances, now archbishop of Rouen, started on a major phase of the work. The Romanesque nave was pulled down in preparation for its rebuilding in the gothic style. However, during his absence, first in accompanying Richard I on crusade, then as justiciar ruling England in the absence of the king, and finally in going to Germany to obtain Richard's release from prison, the work of rebuilding the cathedral came to a halt. On his return to Rouen in 1189 work was re-started, but when he asked the canons to reserve part of their revenues for the work several resisted the demand. Pope Innocent III, no doubt prompted by the archbishop, issued a bull reminding them that it was not a matter of choice but of duty. The work continued, and by 1200 three bays on the north side of the nave, and four on the south, had been completed.
On the death of Richard in 1199 his body was buried at Fontevrault, his intestines at Poitiers, but, 'in remembrance of his love of Normandy', he had directed that his heart should be buried in the cathedral of Rouen. This was typical of the Angevin love for the Cathedral. When in 1183 the young King Henry, son of Henry II, was dying of dysentery at Quercy, he had demanded that he should be buried in the cathedral. His body was salted, sown up in the hide of a cow, and taken to Rouen for burial.
In 1199 Walter de Coutances invested John with the ring and sword of Normandy, and a crown of golden roses, and received his oath to preserve the church and its dignities. But the situation in Normandy that faced John at his accession was one of serious overstrain in material resources and morale, and a deep uncertainty that the struggle could be carried on at all.
During the night of Easter 1200 a terrible fire devastated a part of the town of Rouen including the cathedral. The choir and transepts were ruined, the tower collapsed, the bells, books, and liturgical ornaments were destroyed, and only the nave, then under construction, survived. Since the Duchy of Normandy had been practically bankrupted by the war with France, John contributed large sums from the royal treasury of England toward the rebuilding. This came to an end in 1204 when Philip Augustus finally invaded Normandy. Few thought John was worth fighting for, especially since he had retired to the safety of England, and so Normandy was lost. Nevertheless, despite famine and pestilence, the work of rebuilding the cathedral was completed in the next thirty years.
All hope of the recovery of Normandy had not vanished. Not only were the canons confirmed in possession of their English manors of Ottery, Bentworth and Kilham, as well as the valuable chaplaincy of Blythe in Nottinghamshire, with its many dependant churches. They also received other favours. In 1227 Henry III, when confirming the grant of the manor of Clere, also granted the canons a yearly fair on the vigil and feast of the Assumption. Then in 1236 an order was made confirming that the dean and chapter should be free of tax, and in 1247 it was ordered that,
The wood of Wycingelegh [Witingley], which belongs to their manor of Clere, shall be disafforested and quit of waste, regard, venison, and all things pertaining to the forest and the foresters and verderers, with power to sell, enclose it with a ditch and hedge or dispose of it at their will
Victoria County History confuses the wood of Witingley and the forest
of Witingley and concludes that it was the forest which was disafforested,
but this was not so. A perambulation of the forest was made in 1300, by
which time it had been renamed as the Forest of Freemantle. Witingley
wood was probably the area now known as Cannons Farm, and was described
in the perambulation as the pastures of the dean and chapter of Rouen.
It may be surmised that the grant of disafforestation was to allow the
canons to increase their profit by turning the wood into sheep pasture.
The term 'wood' is possibly misleading, for in the Pipe Rolls, Witingley,
although at one stage referred to as a forest, is later called the brolliis
of Witingley. This suggests thicket and scrub rather than a wood of mature
In 1248 Odo Rigaud, a Capuchin Friar, was elected archbishop. He took the diocese into his hands with great zeal, and guarded it for twenty-seven years with a will that nothing could stop. The result was a new era of prosperity, apostolic renewal and peace. The choir had almost doubled in size ready for the development of great liturgical occasions, and the building work seemed to be complete, but it was in the reign of this saintly archbishop that, about the year 1270, enlargement and alterations to the cathedral began once again.
At the end of the thirteenth century, as a result of the religious revival, there was a demand by the people that opportunity for the exercise of their piety should be given. There was a great desire to attend Low Mass every morning and at all hours, besides which the faithful increasingly provided in their wills for the celebration of annual masses for themselves and their parents. The inability to meet the demand arose because both the number of altars in the cathedral and priests to serve them were too small. The solution was to create chapels in the nave by extending the buttresses in each bay, removing the walls between the pillars, and making a new wall along the face of the extended buttresses.
Odo Rigaud, along with Walter de Coutancess, may be remembered as two of the more remarkable lords of the manor of Clere, even if, as seems likely, they never visited it. Odo was a trusted Councillor of King Louis IX, and a close friend of Simon de Montfort. He was a leading negotiator on the side of Louis which led to the treaty of Paris of May 1259 by which Henry III was recognised as duke of Aquitaine, did homage to the king of France for the duchy, but relinquished all claims to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Poitu. Odo died 1 June 1276 upon which the chapter elected William de Flavacourt, archdeacon of Petit-Caux. Rome contested the election and he did not receive the pallium until 1278, so that there was an interregnum of two years.
From time to time, on the voidance of the archbishopric, the king took the manor into his own hands and granted the custody to others. It is not known whether the cathedral of Rouen was affected when in 1295 Edward I took into his hands the estates of 'alien religious houses in the power of the king of France, and his allies', but it seems unlikely. Whilst possibly one of the canons would visit their English estates from to time, the possibility of subversive influence would be limited, unlike that of monks of alien houses permanently resident in England. It is known that in 1324 the manor was committed to the custody of Peter de Galicien, and in 1327 was committed,
during pleasure, to the king's clerk Robert de Wyvill, parson of the church of Kyngesclere, [the manor] which is in the king's hands for certain causes, at the yearly rent at the Exchequer of as much as others have rendered for the same hitherto in moieties at Michaelmas and Easter'.
It would seem that the interregnum did not last long. There are in the archives of the department of Seine-Inférieure letters of the official of Rouen dated 1328, together with a vidimus of charters of Henry I, Simon Meopham, archbishop of Canterbury, and of Henry II, concerning the grant of the manor of Clere to the church of Rouen. This evidence was probably assembled preliminary to action for the recovery of their temporalities. The manor had certainly been recovered by 1331 when the dean and chapter brought an action before the justices in eyre for forest pleas against the foresters of Pamber. The judgement is copied at some length here as giving a rare glimpse of local affairs,
. . . it is found by inquisition that 100 acres of wood at Havekhurst [Great Haughurst Copse SU 568 615] and 100 acres of pasture annexed to the same wood in Kyngesclere, to wit from the little well at Ixnesford to the king's way leading to Brimpton between cos. Southampton and Berks at the west end and 200 acres of pasture called Smethesburgh [Smithley's Copse SU 566 608] are the soil of the dean and chapter pertaining to the manor aforesaid and that the dean and chapter were peacefully seized of the wood and pasture as appurtenances of the manor taking the espleas thereof as in pannage, sale of turf and heath and that the wood of Havekhurst and the 100 acres of pasture annexed are within the metes of the forest aforesaid [Pamber], and that the 200 acres of pasture called Le Smetheburgh are without the metes of the forest.
was now that the canons read the signs of the times. The increasing hostility
between France and England presaged the outbreak of the Hundred-Year War,
and the canons disposed of their English estates. On 20 February 1335
the king gave licence to Peter, archbishop of Rouen, and the dean and
chapter, to enfeoff William de Melton, archbishop of York, with the manor
of Kingsclere 'to hold for himself and his heirs by rendering to the Exchequer
by the hands of the sheriff of Southampton 10s. yearly.' The other English
manors were disposed of at the same time.
For Kingsclere this brought to an end a period of just over two hundred years in which the profits of the manor went abroad. No longer would the people of the manor be forced to have their corn ground at the canons' mill, or attend their court. Their lords from now on would be Englishmen, though it is doubtful whether it would make any difference to their lives.
It has sometimes been suggested that the canons were involved in building the church of St. Mary, Kingsclere, but the church was never in their hands. It was first appropriated to the Benedictine Abbey of Hyde, Winchester, and then to the Augustinian Priory of Bisham in Berkshire. On the contrary, as A. T. Shore pointed out more than a hundred years ago the people of Kingsclere might take a wry pride in the fact that their forebears contributed, however unwillingly, to the building of the magnificent cathedral of St. Mary Rouen.
If we compare Kingsclere with neighbouring small towns, it appears that the connection with Rouen was in no way beneficial. Kingsclere had a market at least a hundred years before Overton or Whitchurch, and the grant of a fair before either, but unlike them it never achieved borough status to the benefit of trade. It seems that the canons were remote and not directly interested in the development of the town. It was not the most profitable of their English possessions. Ottery was valued at 240 marks a year, the chapelry of Blyth at 90 marcs, and the manor of Clere at 60 marks.
Subsequent History of the Manor
On the death of the archbishop, and in accordance with a settlement made in that year, the manor passed to his nephew William, son of his brother Henry de Melton. In 1346 there was a grant of special grace to William and his heirs of free warren in all their demesne lands in Kingsclere. The manor continued in the possession of the de Melton family until 1554. It was then sold to Sir William Paulet Lord St. John. The manor remained with his successors, the marquises of Winchester and dukes of Bolton until the death without issue of Henry sixth Duke of Bolton in 1779. It then passed in accordance with a settlement made by Charles, fifth Duke of Bolton, to Thomas Orde the husband of his natural daughter Jean Mary. In 1797 Thomas Orde assumed the additional surname and arms of Powlett and was elevated to the peerage as Lord Bolton of Bolton Castle. The Kingsclere estate continued in the possession of the family until 1923 when it was put up for auction and was dispersed.