14 August, 2007

Rioters and Ruffians? The Dunheved Gang (2)

The second part of my investigations into the Dunheved gang of 1327 - the first part is here. Unless stated otherwise, the men all disappear from the records after the summer of 1327.

Richard de Birchesden (or Bircheston) of Warwickshire

Birchesden or Bircheston (also spelt in fourteenth-century documents as Bercheston, Byrcheston, etc) is the Warwickshire village now written as Barcheston, which lies on the opposite bank of the river Stour to Shipston-on-Stour. In the last census, 2001, it had a population of 134. Barcheston is about thirty-five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch, and twenty-two miles from Kenilworth.

Richard was described as lord of the manor of Barcheston in 1316, and apparently called to Parliament in 1322. He was an 'armiger' - a man entitled to his own coat of arms, often translated as 'squire'. A Simon de Bircheston, perhaps a relative, was Abbot of Westminster from 1344 to 1349, and was associated with Nicholas de Litlyngton, Abbot of Westminster from 1362 to 1386. Litlyngton was probably the illegitimate son of Hugh Despenser the Younger (or perhaps of his father).

On 25 May 1327, a 'Richard son of Thomas de Bercheston' was pardoned for an unnamed offence, but I don't know if that was the same one. 'Richard de Berchiston' was mentioned on 28 February 1319 for assault at Shipston-on-Stour - given that Richard came from less than a mile away, it must be the same one. And in June 1320, a 'Richard de Byrcheston' was given protection for going to France in the company of John, Lord Hastings, on the occasion of Edward II having to pay homage for Gascony to his brother-in-law Philip V. Hastings (husband of Juliana Leyburne) owned lands in Warwickshire, so I presume he was Richard's overlord.

I don't know of any connection between Richard and Edward II - perhaps he was an associate of Stephen Dunheved in some way. But I have no evidence for that, except that they both came from Warwickshire.

It's possible that Richard, one of the men named as taking part in the assault on Berkeley, was one of the handful of gang members who lived past the summer of 1327. 'Richard de Burcheston' (yet another spelling!) is mentioned on 21 November 1327 for committing theft at Campden in Gloucestershire. One of the men named with him is Malcolm Musard, the aristocratic leader of a notorious robber band of up to 300 men, famous for assault, theft, kidnapping, extortion and so on, like the Folvilles. Musard's lands were seized in 1327 because of his adherence to the Elder Despenser, whose retinue he joined in 1305. He was made Keeper of Hanley Castle, which belonged to the Younger Despenser, in 1321. However, Despenser wasn't always pleased with Musard, as shown by his letter requesting that the appointment of Musard as keeper of the peace in Worcestershire be revoked, because he was unsuitable. The reason for this was probably because Musard had attacked two manors belonging to Aline Burnell - who was Despenser's sister. (Got to love the irony of a notorious gang leader being made keeper of the peace.) And on 7 August 1326, Musard was pardoned for "adherence to the rebels", so apparently he switched sides at his own convenience.

Richard de Barcheston was described as the chief taxpayer in Barcheston in 1332. However, I suppose it's possible that this was his son, or nephew.

John de Rihale and Henry de Rihale, friar preacher

Presumably brothers, though unfortunately I haven't been able to find either man. Henry was a Dominican, and perhaps from the same convent as Thomas Dunheved, or John Stoke [last post]. A plot of land in the manor of Riseley, Bedfordshire, was called 'la Rihale', for example on 26 December 1329. Rihale may also be Ryhall near Stamford in Lincolnshire (then Rutland), or Ryall near Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, which is thirty-seven miles from Berkeley and just two miles from Hanley Castle, which (had) belonged to the Younger Despenser. Ryhall near Stamford also had a connection with Despenser: in 1320, he granted it and other manors to his brother-in-law Hugh Audley, in exchange for lands in South Wales. In July 1322, Despenser was granted "the corn, hay, grass, cattle and goods" in Ryhall and other manors.

These possible links to Despenser may have been a reason for the two Rihale men to join the Dunheved gang, or alternatively it might have been the strong support for Edward II found among the Dominicans. Unfortunately, I have no more information on the two men, and neither appears after the summer of 1327.

Richard le Flesshewere

The name 'le Fles(s)hewere' (or 'Fleshewer', or about ninety-seven other possible spellings) means 'butcher'. The only reference I've found to Richard is on 15 March 1324, when Edward II sent his sergeant-at-arms Oto le Alemaund ('Otto the German') to arrest him - assuming it *is* him - and seven other men. No reason is given. If this was the same man, he must have forgiven Edward for having him arrested! According to Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July, Richard came from Gloucestershire.

One of the men ordered to be arrested with Richard by Otto the German was John Andreu. Andreu was one of the men accused of assault with John de la Haye [last post] on 13 July 1327.

Master Robert de Shulton, monk of Hailes [daunz Robert de Shultone, moigne de Hayles]

'Shulton' is probably Shoulton near Worcester, but could be one of several places named Shelton, or one of two towns named Shilton. One of these is in Warwickshire, fifteen miles from Dunchurch. Hailes Abbey is Cistercian, and was founded in 1246 by Edward II's great-uncle Richard of Cornwall. It's near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, about forty miles from Berkeley.

William, nephew of Master Michael atte Hull, canon of Llanthony, Gloucester
[Williame nevou daunz Michael atte Hulle, chanoign de l'Antony de Glouc']

The mention of the Augustinian house of Llanthony Priory is significant in this context, as it was there that Edward II spent the night of 4/5 April 1327, on his way from Kenilworth to Berkeley, with Thomas Berkeley and John Maltravers. They left Kenilworth on 3 April, made very good time to cover the fifty-five miles to Gloucester in two days, and probably travelled the remaining sixteen miles from Gloucester to their final destination the next day. The Berkeley Castle records show that Edward II was at Berkeley by 6 April at the latest.

It was Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester where they stayed, not the mother house of Llanthony Prima in Monmouthshire, as often stated, for example by Alison Weir and Paul Doherty. Kenilworth to Llanthony Prima is just under 100 miles, and Llanthony to Berkeley is another sixty-five miles - an impossible journey in three days in 1327 for anyone except professional messengers travelling alone. It's also often stated that Maltravers and Berkeley took Edward from Kenilworth to Llanthony Prima and then to Corfe Castle in Dorset, then to Berkeley via Bristol, zigzagging around the country and laying false trails to prevent Edward's friends finding him. Kenilworth to Llanthony in Monmouthshire to Corfe to Bristol to Berkeley is about 350 miles. Ridiculous! It would have taken at least a couple of weeks to make that journey, and dramatically increased the number of people who would have seen Edward when Berkeley and Maltravers were trying to keep his whereabouts secret.

Did Michael atte Hull, the canon of Llanthony, inform his nephew William that Edward was there on 4/5 April? It would have made the gang's job a lot easier to find Edward - who could have been taken from Kenilworth more or less anywhere in the country.

For a while, I thought that this William atte Hull was the man of the same name who murdered Agnes Coleman in Norfolk and abjured the realm sometime before September 1325, and who came from Thorndon in Suffolk. However, Thomas Berkeley's letter of 27 July 1327 specifically states that the William of the Dunheved gang came from Gloucestershire, and besides, I haven't been able to find any connections between William atte Hull the murderer and Edward II, or the Dunheved gang. (And the notorious William atte Hull was still active in East Anglia, accused of imprisoning a man and threatening to cut off his genitals - what a charmer - in 1346.) The William of the Dunheved gang is far more likely to be the "Thomas atte Hulle and William his son, and Robert brother of the same William, [who] assaulted a man" at Campden, Gloucestershire, on 26 February 1314. Thomas would then be the brother of Michael atte Hull, the canon of Llanthony.

On 8 March 1327, William atte Hull, with Roger Inman and John Ingelard, was accused by Philip Cheyne of stealing thirteen oxen and a cow, worth ten pounds, at 'Momerfeld' in Shropshire, which I can't identify (unless it's Munderfield, which is in Herefordshire). John Ingelard, sometimes called 'John Ingelard de Warley', was a merchant, the brother of Ingelard de Warley, who was the unpopular Keeper of Edward II's Wardrobe from 1309 to 1314. He (Warley, the Keeper of the Wardrobe) had served in Edward's household before he became King, and attended Piers Gaveston's funeral in January 1315. He was dead by 1327.

Why William atte Hull was willing to put his life on the line for Edward II is unclear, as he doesn't seem to have served him in any capacity, and as he came from Gloucestershire, was not likely to be an associate of the Dunheveds. Perhaps he was attracted more by the possibility of violence and plunder, not because he was loyal to Edward. However, he was ordered to be arrested in March 1327, before Edward II was sent to Berkeley - so probably he was already a gang member, and didn't join them simply because they were passing through Gloucestershire, where he lived. And the fact that he's named in Berkeley's letter and in the indictment of 1 August suggests that he was an important member of the gang, not someone who'd joined the attack simply for plunder.

A William atte Hull served as a juror in London on 7 July 1347. I'd love to think that this was the same man. But sadly, I doubt it.

Walter de Saunford

Another gang member who's difficult to trace. 'Saunford' could be one of many places called Sandford, or it could even be Stamford or Stanford or Sampford. One of the villages called Sandford is in Dorset, roughly halfway between Lytchett Matravers (where John Maltravers came from) and Corfe Castle, where Edward II seems to have been held at some point in 1327.
There are several possibilities regarding Walter's identity: there was a draper in London in 1310 called Walter de Saunford, and in 1322/23 a Walter de Staunford, possibly the same man, rented a shop with a solar at St Mary le Bow in London; he was granted a reduction of eight shillings in his rent "lest he should never leave because of the poverty of the time". In November 1317, there's a mention of "Walter son of Andrew de Stannford", who made a grant to the Carmelite friars, and in May 1310, a Walter de Stanford and others imprisoned a man named Matthew de Lescheqer ('of the Exchequer') at Norwich. One of the other men was named as Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, former Chancellor and Treasurer of England, and a great enemy of Edward II.

Whether the Walter de Saunford of the Dunheved gang was any of these men, I'm afraid I don't know. Or maybe he was none of them! A Walter de Saunford was Abbot of Abbotsbury (?!) in Dorset from 1343 to 1348, but the gang member is not identified as a cleric, and I'm pretty sure it's not the same one.

William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntele [William de Roscele, persone de l'eglise de Huntele]

'William Russell' in modern spelling. On 11 December 1323, "William de Roscele, parson of the church of Huntelegh" was accused with many other men of assaulting a man named Richard de Portes in Gloucester and stealing his goods. So he was probably an aggressive, fighting kind of priest, and one not too bothered about breaking the law! Richard de Portes was an associate of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, John Maltravers and Thomas Gurney.

Huntley is a village seven miles to the west of Gloucester, about twenty-five miles from Berkeley. However, William was probably already a member of the gang before Edward was taken to Berkeley, as two orders for his arrest appears on 8 March: one for breaking into a house, and cutting down trees, in Berkshire, and the other for the same offence in Wiltshire. No mean feat, to be in Berkshire and Wiltshire at the same time, and all the manors mentioned are pretty far from his parish.

It's possible that the gang made use of Huntley as a useful base not far from Berkeley, or as a meeting point. It's on the edge of the Forest of Dean, a very handy place to hide. Huntley church was built in the eleventh century, but demolished and rebuilt in 1861. Only the tower is as it would have been in William's day.

Sir Edmund Gascelyn (Gacelyn, Gacelin, Gasselyn, Goscelyn, Wacelyn, etc etc)

Sir Edmund Gascelyn was a knight, and is therefore by far the easiest of the Dunheved gang to trace. He was born probably in 1281, aged twenty-six when his father died on 24 September 1307; his father Edmund had been a household knight of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (died 1306) and his grandfather Geoffrey a household knight of King Henry III. Edmund Gascelyn himself served in the Earl of Pembroke's retinue at around the same time as the Berkeleys and Thomas Gurney.

Edmund owned Sheldon Manor in Chippenham, which still exists and is open to the public, and other lands in Wiltshire. (One website I looked at says "The house, unfortunately, is closed this year due to ill health." I hope it gets better soon.)

Between 4 March and 1 August 1327, warrants were issued for Edmund's arrest no fewer than eight times - probably he was considered to be a particular threat, as he was a knight. On 4 March, he was said with a few others to have stolen "twenty horses, sixty oxen, fifty cows and fourteen hundred sheep, worth 300 pounds" in four villages in Gloucestershire; on 5 March, to have imprisoned a man at Shilton, near Coventry, until he paid a fine of ten pounds, and to have "mowed his corn" (the horror!); on 8 March, with a few others, to have stolen "two horses, six mares, two bulls, thirty-six oxen, thirty-two cows, six hundred and fifty sheep and twenty swine, worth two hundred pounds" in Wiltshire; on 10 March, to have stolen unspecified goods at Bushton, Wiltshire; also on 10 March, to have "imprisoned and maltreated" a man at York; and on 15 April, to have stolen unspecified goods at Langley Burrell, Wiltshire. Langley Burrell is just outside Chippenham, where Edmund held lands.

Plus, he was ordered to be arrested on 15 July for 'withdrawing himself' from Thomas Berkeley, and on 1 August for the Berkeley Castle affair. A busy man, and obviously an unusually talented one in managing to be in so many parts of the country at once - especially York and Bushton in Wiltshire, which are over 200 miles apart.

Edmund married a woman named Eleanor, widow of Sir John Kiriel, in 1303, and had a son called Geoffrey. Other knights with the name Gascelyn often show up in the records of Edward II's reign, Roger, John and Walter - brothers or cousins of Edmund. Roger Gascelyn was captured fighting against the royal army at Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, and Edmund was granted his manor of Catmore, Berkshire, on 1 June 1322. He also received 'Wroxhale' in Wiltshire - which I can only imagine is Wroxall, which is actually in Warwickshire. On 6 April 1322, Edmund's lands were restored to him, having been seized by the Contrariants, Edward II's baronial enemies.

In July 1322, he went on the Scots campaign with Edward II, was summoned to the Great Council at Westminster on 9 May 1324, and was a Commissioner of Array for Wiltshire in November and December 1324, with responsibility for raising fifteen men-at-arms, 100 archers and more than 250 footmen (to send to Gascony). Lots of other men did the same - I can't see that Edmund was unusually privileged, or held any positions of power or influence, or that Edward II favoured him particularly.

Why Edmund Gascelyn was so determined to free Edward is rather puzzling, as there's really nothing to suggest that the two men were ever close. If Edmund served Edward II or Hugh Despenser as a household knight, I haven't found any evidence. On 16 October 1313, Edmund, Roger and John Gascelyn, his brothers or cousins, were three of the hundreds (really - there's pages of them) of men pardoned "of all causes of anger, indignation, suits, accusations, etc, arisen in any manner on account of Peter [Piers] de Gavaston..." There is some indication that Edmund was considered an adherent of the younger Despenser, but I'm not sure of the precise connection.

John Gascelyn was named with Edmund in one of his alleged crimes, mentioned above, so may have been suspected of gang involvement or sympathy for the former Edward II. And Walter Gascelyn was one of the men accused of stealing "fish, trees and corn" with William Aylmer in 1328 [last post], but both John and Walter crop up often enough in records of Edward III's reign.

Edmund Gascelyn does not. I can't find him after the summer of 1327, and he was surely dead. However, his son Geoffrey was in possession of Sheldon Manor by 30 December 1337. The fortunes of the Gascelyn family waned, perhaps because of Edmund's fate: Geoffrey was never knighted, and in 1351, reached an agreement with Thomas, Lord Berkeley, of all people (yes, that Thomas Berkeley) that he would hand over most of his lands to Berkeley in return for an annual rent and maintenance as a squire in Berkeley's household. At the end of the seven-year agreement, Berkeley offered Geoffrey the choice of staying in his household for a further five years or taking an annuity of 10 marks (six pounds, sixty-six pence) with an acre of meadow and an acre of field - evidence of the sad decline of the family, which had once enjoyed an income of £200 a year.

John de Hill

I couldn't find John de Hill for ages. However, I think I've finally traced the elusive git. He was a knight, albeit a very obscure one, came from Hill Croome in Worcestershire, and was also known as John de Hull or de Hulle. The family were either called 'de Hill', 'de Hill Croome' or 'de Hulle', confusingly, and their manor was called Hulecrumb, Hulcrombe, with many variants in the spelling, and also as Hull or Hulle.

Hill Croome is in southern Worcestershire, near the Gloucestershire border. It's about seven miles north of Hugh Despenser the Younger's manor of Tewkesbury, even closer to his manor of Hanley Castle, and three miles from Ryall, where two other gang members may have come from. Its thirteenth-century church is still extant; there are some photos by Tudor Barlow here.

John was summoned to the Great Council at Westminster on 9 May 1324, as was Edmund Gascelyn. He was named as a Commissioner of Array in Worcestershire on Christmas Day 1325 and on 12 September 1326, just twelve days before Mortimer and Isabella's invasion force landed in Suffolk. A Thomas de Hull, who may or may not have been a relative, was pardoned on 20 March 1327 for holding out against Isabella and Mortimer's forces at Caerphilly.

John inherited Hill Croome from his father Nicholas sometime before 1324. On 12 March 1347, there's a mention of John de Hulle, his son: "that he and his heirs for ever shall have charter of free warren...in his demesne lands of Hullecroumbe and Kereswell, co. Worcester." The charter was witnessed by a host of luminaries: Edward III's eldest son Edward of Woodstock, William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton, Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Richard Talbot, Steward of Edward III's household.

John de Hill/Hulle was one of the men mentioned on 15 July for 'withdrawing himself' from Thomas Berkeley, and indicted on 1 August for the attack on Berkeley Castle.

Roger atte Watre ('Atwater' in modern spelling)

Roger was one of the men pardoned on 20 March 1327 for holding out at Caerphilly Castle. I don't know when he joined the gang, but it must have been around the time that Edward II was moved to Berkeley, or later.

He was a sergeant-at-arms of Edward II, as were William Beaukaire, also pardoned at Caerphilly, who would play a very different role at Berkeley Castle, and several other members of the Dunheved gang. Roger came from London, and often appears in records there, as do many other atte Watres. He had a garden called the Hermitage, on the south side of Aldgate, which he leased in 1325 to a man named Peter de Staundone for ten shillings a year.

Roger had been a sergeant of Edward II since at least April 1311, as letters of safe-conduct were issued on 25 April "in favour of Roger le Palmere, William de Flete, and Roger atte Watre proceeding to Scotland with the King's treasure." On 18 July 1314, he and two other sergeants took Donald of Mar (who became one of Edward's most fervent adherents), Donald's aunt Elizabeth de Burgh, who was Robert Bruce's wife, and the other Scottish hostages to Edward at York, where they were freed. And in 1321: "as regards the sum of £20 12s. which Roger atte Watre, the King's Serjeant, demands on account of those who were in the King's service at Ledes, it was understood that this was given of the King's courtesy, but the money would be returned if the King would signify his pleasure." This is a reference to Edward II's siege at Leeds Castle in Kent, the opener to his successful campaign against the Marcher lords in 1321/22.

There are lots of other references to Roger atte Watre in connection with London. Probably, Edward II trusted him to act in his best interests in a place where he (Edward) was deeply unpopular.

Roger vanishes from the records after the summer of 1327, almost certainly dead. However, there are a few mentions of John atte Watre and John atte Watre junior in the 1340s, who I'd like to think were his son and grandson. John atte Watre junior appears as late as 1373. Roger's father may also have been named John - a John atte Watre appears in various London records in the 1310s.

William le Parker of Alecestre

Also very difficult to trace. There were plenty of William le Parkers in Edward II's reign, but none of them were designated 'of Alecestre'. A William le Parker, no placename given, accompanied Queen Isabella to France in 1314 and 1320, but it's probably not the same one.

'Alecestre' is Alcester in Warwickshire, thirty-five miles from the Dunheveds' home of Dunchurch, twenty-two miles from Kenilworth, and also twenty-two miles from Barcheston, where another gang member came from. William may therefore have been an associate of one of these men.

On 9 October 1327, an Adam le Parker was pardoned for adherence to Edward II's friend and Dunheved gang supporter Donald, Earl of Mar. Adam was "received into the king's peace" by Henry Percy, "provided that he return to, and abide on, the march, and aid in harassing the enemy." He may have been a relative of William, but then, it's a common name.


Although I would never deny that most people in England were glad to see the back of Edward II in 1327, I hope these posts demonstrate that he was far from friendless. Several members of his household, men who knew him well, were willing to risk their necks for him: his confessor Thomas Dunheved, Rhys ap Gruffydd, Donald of Mar, Thomas de la Haye, Roger atte Watre, John Boteler. It's not surprising that some of the Dunheved gang were Dominican, as Edward had always shown them great favour, but other clerical members of the gang were not Dominican - there were two Cistercians, an Augustinian, and several parsons. And there were others whose connection to Edward remains mysterious, but who nevertheless put themselves in great danger - and usually ended up dead - to help him. And as I'll write in a future post, a few of the men who helped the Earl of Kent in his conspiracy to free Edward in 1329/30 were also former members of his household. Even two and a half years after the official announcement that he was dead, there were still men willing to risk imprisonment, exile, and death for Edward II.


Gabriele Campbell said...

Wow, you did some research there. And what a mess to sort out.

I'm sure there's a novel lurking somewhere in that, with some of the gang leaders - preferably those with the most interesting lives and least well understood motives - as main characters.

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, this took rather a long time to research! It was enormous fun, though. ;)

A novel would be fascinating, especially the bit about the assault on Berkeley. I'm fascinated by Stephen Dunheved, and it would be great to have him as a main character.

Anonymous said...

Great research Alianore! Thanks. What wonderful stories. I thank you also for reminding me of the word contrariant. *spelling?*

I can't wait to say that to my 11 year old. ie. "oh don't be such a contrariant." It should go down a treat. ;)

I love the idea of fighting monks. It seems the complete opposite of whatever vows they may have taken. I guess not in the middle ages though!

Gabriele Campbell said...

In the Song of Roland (late 11th or early 12th century, academics still quarrel about that) we have Turpin, the fighting bishop and he's depicted as a positive character. And think about the whole Crusade ideology. I won't be surprised if traces of that survived and a monk could think it was ok to fight for a good cause.

Kathryn Warner said...

Kate: 'contrariant(s)' is a good word, isn't it? In the French documents of the time, it was written contrariaunz - pointless bit of trivia, there. ;)

About fighting priests - I think Gabriele's right. I assume the Dunheved clerics must have played an important role in the attack on Berkeley, as they're named in the indictment. And another pointless but amusing bit of trivia: when the parson William de Roscele was accused of assaulting de Portes, no fewer than fifty-nine named men "and others" were accused with him. Sixty?? How on earth did de Portes know who they all were?? Did they helpfully announce themselves to him beforehand and write their names down on a piece of paper? And how did sixty-odd men commit assault on one man anyway?? :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

They wanted to be very sure that they'd be on the winning side. :)

Carla said...

Didn't William the Conqueror have a priest half-brother or cousin called Odo who solved the problem that priests weren't allowed to shed blood by fighting with a mace instead of a blade? (Though you'd think a mace would be pretty splashy - yuk). Or is that an urban myth?

Has anyone done it in fiction? I was at one stage thinking the assault on Berkeley might make a good short story, but now I can't get Alan Rickman and Carry On Up the Castle out of my head :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: I'm not sure about Odo. I know he was William's half-brother, and Earl of Kent as well as Bishop of Bayeux - so maybe he claimed he was fighting as an earl, not as a bishop? The mace story sounds good, though - hope it's true!

The only fictional treatment of the assault on Berkeley I've read is in Paul Doherty's Death of a King. It's told from the POV of a priest friend of the Dunheveds, and is only a few pages.

Unknown said...

Well done on the amazing research Alianore! One thing I don't understand is their ultimate objective - what exactly did they hope to achieve? Overthrowing the entire establishment and engineering a full restoration of Edward II to the throne? I wonder what their plans for Isabella and Mortimer were!

Kathryn Warner said...

Liam: I really wish I knew what their objectives were. A restoration of Ed II, or only to keep him hidden somewhere, where they thought he'd be safer? (Perhaps because they knew or suspected that his life was in danger?)

And I really don't get why some of the gang members joined, when they don't seem to have been close to Ed II at all, and could probably have gained favour with Isa and Mortimer. Hmmm...people's motivations can really be puzzling and inexplicable, can't they?? ;)