Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln A Short Story of One of the Makers of Mediaeval England

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Ebbe's church was given to Eynsham abbey c. Martin's church was granted to Abingdon abbey in John the Baptist, which survived until when it formed the nucleus of Merton College; by then its area appears to have been c. At least 25 Oxford houses were dependent on rural manors, 13 of them on Steventon Berks. The links may have been created by an original division of the borough among Saxon thegns, but equally could have been formed later, since it was presumably convenient for country magnates to have a house in Oxford, once it became a flourishing market town and an important administrative centre.

After the unification of England under Edward the Elder and his successors Oxford ceased to be a border town in a military sense. Politically, however, it continued to occupy a position between Wessex and Mercia, while geographically it lay in the heart of the kingdom on important trade routes. This combination of circumstances accounts for much of the town's growth and importance in the later Anglo-Saxon period.

It seems to have possessed a royal residence and one of Edward the Elder's sons died in Oxford in , as did Harold Harefoot in Like other burhs it was probably a market town from its foundation, and by c. Its inhabitants possessed extensive trading privileges in London in the early 12th century and occupied a special place at the coronation banquet, with the men of London and Winchester. Oxford's importance during the reign of Athelstan is indicated by its apparent possession of four moneyers, a higher number than that assigned by the Grately decrees to any borough except London, which had eight, and Winchester, which had six.

The coinage, moreover, shows links with both West Saxon and Mercian forms, demonstrating Oxford's peculiar position between the two provinces. Brice's day , which culminated in the burning of St. Frideswide's church with the Danes who had taken refuge there. The councils at Oxford in , , , and were all ones at which the interests of north and south to some degree conflicted; in , indeed, the split was between Wessex and Mercia. It may be that Oxford was chosen for the meetings because of its neutral position, having ties with both Wessex and Mercia but being identified with neither. The great council at Oxford in may have been an abortive attempt to reunite the kingdom after Sweyn's successful invasion of , and in the face of the threatened invasion of Cnut.

It was attended by nobles from all parts of the country, including Sigeforth and Morcar, thegns from the Danish 'Seven Boroughs', who may have invited Sweyn to England; their death during the council through the treachery of Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia, resulted in a serious split between Wessex and the Danelaw. By Oxford had expanded well beyond its original walls, and, with some thousand recorded houses and perhaps eleven churches, was one of the largest towns in England, exceeded in size only by London, York, Norwich, Lincoln, and Winchester.

Even in York, after the Danish sack of , the Conqueror's harrying in , and the destruction of a whole ward for the building of two castles, only 30 per cent of the properties were 'waste' and 29 per cent so empty as to render nothing. The causes of the decline, which proved to be only temporary, are obscure. There may have been some unrecorded natural disaster, such as fire or flood, fn. The general falling-off of trade in the generation after the Conquest may also have affected Oxford which already had strong trading links with London, and perhaps also with East Anglia, in the Anglo-Saxon period.

The Norman kings visited Oxford only rarely and no councils were held there after William I was at Oxford in , fn. Frideswide , once between and , and in , when he spent Easter in his newly built hall. Frideswide's suitor had been struck blind in Oxford no king had dared to enter the town. Stephen probably came to Oxford twice in the first year of his reign. The first visit was apparently marked by a confirmation of liberties granted by the coronation oath, but the king was probably also concerned to gain control of the castle, which he besieged and took that year.

During another council at Oxford in Stephen arrested Roger, bishop of Salisbury, and his nephew Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, following an outbreak of fighting between the bishop of Salisbury's men and Count Alan of Brittany's. The siege of the castle lasted three months, ending with Matilda's escape across the frozen river to Wallingford. There is evidence for extensive rebuilding in the wake of the destruction.

Frideswide's was refounded as an Augustinian priory in ; Oseney abbey, another Augustinian house, on an island in the Thames outside the west gate, was founded as a priory in and in acquired the collegiate church of St. George's in the Castle, which had been founded by Robert d'Oilly in Godstow nunnery, a few miles north of the town, was founded in Frideswide's, and 18 gave land to Oseney at its foundation.

Henry of Oxford obtained a grant of the Castle mill from Matilda, and built up a large estate in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, much of it obtained, perhaps as pledges for loans, from the empress's supporters Brian FitzCount, Geoffrey de Clinton, and Robert d'Oilly; Henry also took advantage of the disturbances to seize several houses in Wallingford. Henry II did not spend much time in Oxford, although the king's houses and the royal apartments in the castle were maintained as royal residences.

Richard I is not known to have visited Oxford, but councils were held there, in his absence, in and The university developed gradually in the 12th century as a loose association of masters and scholars under a magister scholarum. It was the existence of the university, too, which attracted the Dominican and Franciscan friars to Oxford immediately on their arrival in England in and The townsmen hanged two clerks for a murder of which they were apparently innocent, and the university dispersed.

The matter was not settled until when the town submitted to the papal legate and suffered severe financial penalties; the mayor, bailiffs, and 50 leading burgesses agreed to take a public oath every year to abide by the settlement. In townsmen attacked and wounded scholars and the town was placed under an interdict.

Most scholars appear to have had no difficulty in finding townsmen to act as sureties for them, perhaps because even in the value of letting lodgings and supplying the other needs of the scholars was recognized. Despite such turmoil Henry III spent some time in Oxford in most years of his reign, and in refounded the lateth-century St. John's hospital outside the east gate. During the period of the Baronial Revolt, from to Oxford was, for the last time in the Middle Ages, in the forefront of national affairs. The parliament which approved and carried out the 'Provisions of Oxford' in met at the Dominican friary in St.

Ebbe's parish. Henry held a council in Oxford in , and during his stay visited St. Frideswide's shrine, an act which was popular with the townspeople. Some clerks on their way to Beaumont fields broke it down and threw it into a ditch; there was a riot, and the town was extensively damaged by the victorious clerks.

Henry planned to hold a parliament in the town, and although his letter to the university suggested that he feared for the safety of the clerks in a town full of soldiers, he may have been anxious to avoid further riots between clerks and laymen during the parliament. The whole knight service of England was summoned to Oxford in March to take the field against Llewellyn of Wales and 'the king's enemies'.

During the month which the king spent there before marching to Northampton in April the town was 'the military and administrative centre of England'. The presence of large numbers of soldiers and the gatherings of the magnates and their retinues presumably added to the violence and lawlessness of the town.

Episcopal Virginity in Medieval England

In the mayor and bailiffs were ordered to take into safe custody those who daily attended illegal gatherings there. Henry III spent Christmas in Oxford in and again in , when he spent seven days at Oseney abbey celebrating the feast. In he stayed at the king's houses, but apparently refused to enter the town itself because of the old superstitition, arising from the legend of St. Frideswide, that it was dangerous for a king to do so.

In , when the town was fully surveyed in the Hundred Rolls, fn. There were probably some 1, properties of various kinds, no large open spaces, and few vacant tenements. Houses or colleges of most major religious orders had been or were soon to be established in the town or its suburbs. As property-owners these and neighbouring religious houses, chief among them St. Frideswide's priory, Oseney abbey, and St.

John's hospital, dominated the town, holding a total of properties in demesne in and receiving rents from others. The university held only six schools and seven houses in demesne and received rents from five other properties. The later 13th century was marked by increasing violence between town and gown, and between different 'nations' of scholars. Successive peace settlements and agreements between the parties tended to increase the university's powers at the expense of the town. Mary's church and Smith Gate was broken down again and thrown into the ditch, fn. Those involved on the town's side included Robert and Philip of Worminghall, who, despite an order for their expulsion from Oxford, served as mayor and bailiff the following year, and John of Coleshill and Thomas of Hinksey, bailiffs for the year, who were removed from office.

In Oxford fn. Its decline in wealth, population, and political importance was accompanied by great changes in the nature of its economy and government. Some features of Oxford's decline were common to other English towns, since massive population loss through plague was a national experience and many towns suffered from changes in the wool and cloth trades.

Few, however, were so transformed in this period. The town lost its political importance as the resort of kings and the meeting-place of great councils. Its position as the head of navigation on the river Thames was taken by Henley, and the wealthy merchants who had dominated the town's economy and government were replaced by lesser men. Above all, the relative positions of town and university were reversed, and by the end of the period the town's economy depended almost entirely on supplying the university's needs. Growing awareness of a decline in Oxford's fortunes in the early 14th century coincided with a prolonged period of social unrest in the town and its neighbourhood, culminating in a great town-gown riot on St.

Scholastica's day ; as a result of that and previous conflicts the university's privileges were so increased that it controlled many aspects of town life until the 19th century. The university's monopoly of much of the walled area also dates from the later Middle Ages, when the continued reduction of Oxford's trade and population made possible the acquisition by colleges of central sites, leaving only a much reduced commercial area around Carfax. The university's population seems to have reached a peak soon after ; it has been estimated at c. John's hospital was highest between and Many halls were vacant in the years immediately after the Black Death, and after a brief recovery in the s the number of halls leased to graduates by the abbey and hospital fell fairly steadily from the last quarter of the 14th century.

In the later Middle Ages the town's suburbs contracted, and within the walls there was structural decay and an abundance of vacant plots. Very little church building or restoration may be dated to the century following the Black Death. The gloomiest picture was that drawn by a jury in of a thirteen-acre site in the north-east corner of the town: the land, neither built-up nor inclosed, was a dump for filth and corpses, a resort of criminals and prostitutes, and it was felt that the building of New College there would be an advantage to the whole town.

For the reduced population there were compensations: the university, and particularly the expanding colleges, provided immediate employment, particularly in building work, and secure long-term opportunities for a wide variety of tradesmen. Wage-rates were high and rents low. Although the rate of freeman admissions in Oxford is not known before the 16th century, an increase in the entry fee in the later Middle Ages fn. The townsmen's awareness of deteriorating economic conditions; disasters such as the famine of ; the university's growing control in the market-place; widespread hostility to monastic landlords; a general breakdown of law and order-all probably made some contribution to the disturbances, and there were connexions between some local affrays and the baronial struggles of the time.

In Henry Tyes, later a prominent supporter of Thomas of Lancaster, was appointed keeper of the town. An imposter who appeared at the Carmelite friary in claiming to be the true son of Edward I may have chosen to start his bid for the throne at Oxford because it was a centre of discontent, but it is not clear how much support he attracted; he was fairly quickly arrested and taken to the king at Northampton, where he was executed.

In the university was ordered to hold Smith Gate, which was in its custody, against Roger Mortimer and his 'multitude of aliens'. The Oxford men, who were involved in the second phase of the violence, were led by Philip de Eu and included the mayor and bailiffs and other prominent burgesses. Frideswide's priory and forced the prior to swear to observe the town's statutes.

Although Oxford was chosen as a suitable place for holding royal councils in and , fn. There was relatively little town-gown rioting in the earlier 14th century, but ill-feeling between the two bodies arose frequently, particularly over such issues as the control of prices. Martin's parish, where the crime was committed, to sanctuary in the Austin friary. At the friary the killers were supplied with food by John the painter, a burgess involved in most of the disturbances of the previous decade, who eventually took them, by force of arms according to one account, to St. Mary Magdalen's church, whence they were allowed to escape.

The great riot of St. Scholastica's day lasted for three days. From such a small beginning violence spread rapidly, townsmen rallying to the innkeeper's support, clerks to the scholars', despite the efforts of town and university authorities to restore peace. On the second day of fighting a large body of countrymen marched into the town to support the townsmen, and their combined forces proved too strong for the scholars who fled the town or took shelter in the academic halls, of which many were sacked.

Both sides accused the other of robbing, wounding, and killing; 6 clerks were alleged to have been killed and 21 seriously injured, but no account survives of the town's casualties. The riot and its consequences were a serious blow to a community already devastated by plague. Mortality was high: at least 57 wills made in that period were enrolled in the town's register, fn.


  1. Avalon Project - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle : Eleventh Century.
  2. Charles Latimer Marson.
  3. Hugh of Lincoln, Saint 1140-1200;

The register was of wills devising real property, and thus illustrates the sufferings of the town's elite. The increase in registrations is remarkable, even allowing for the fact that unusual care was taken to enrol wills during the plague. The parish clergy, a group unrepresented in the wills, probably suffered at least as badly as the property-owning burgesses: between April and December the incumbents of 7 of the 14 parish churches were replaced, at least 5 of the vacancies having been created by death.

Although little is known of the mortality among ordinary townsmen it is likely to have been at least as high as that among the parish clergy. Nicholas Bishop recorded in that his mother had lost her parents and all her friends in the great pestilence, fn. Although it was usual for numbers to fluctuate considerably from list to list, the fall from names in October to in October was probably significant, particularly since only c. It seems likely that Oxford lost at least a third of its population in the Black Death. The assize lists suggest that part of the loss was made good almost at once from immigration, and recovery was probably aided by a lower death rate in the years immediately following the epidemic, but the immediate effect was catastrophic.

The evidence of the rentals of Oseney abbey and St. John's hospital supports a statement of the burgesses in that they were greatly impoverished. Even so the Black Death was only one, and by no means the most important, of many factors in the town's decline. Plague and other epidemic diseases continued to afflict the town in the later Middle Ages. The second outbreak of bubonic plague in seems to have been much less severe than the first: only 11 wills were enrolled in the town's register, fn.

Michael at the Northgate and All Saints in seven years between and suggest that the outbreak of , when the university proctors were paid extra for the danger they had undergone, fn. In there were only 34 deaths, but the university claimed that townsmen were dying daily and that some members of congregation had also been carried off. The comparative calm of laterth-century Oxford was probably in part a reaction to the violence of the previous half century; St. Scholastica's day, in particular, had shown the futility of violent resistance to the university.

There may also have been a slight improvement in the town's economic condition, but in the 15th century declined continued, and Oxford lost what national importance it had retained in the earlier 14th century. Richard II held a council there in , fn. Most of the conflicts of the later Middle Ages were between the town and religious houses.

In , however, perhaps in a dispute over rights of jurisdiction, some members of the university overthrew the town gallows at Green ditch in the fields north of Oxford. Nicholas's church and aided and abetted by an Oxford man, William Bampton. John's hospital in about subsidy contributions, fn. In the town apparently refused to admit the abbot's attorney to do suit to the town court; fn.

The abbot complained that men led by the mayor, bailiffs, and two aldermen, had broken his weirs, fished his fishery, assaulted and imprisoned his men, and carried off his goods; a bailiff and a subsidy collector alleged that the abbot and canons had assaulted them, one attack having taken place in St. Mary Magdalen's church during mass. Oxford was not immediately involved in any of the political upheavals of the later Middle Ages. The university complained in of the number of violent criminals who found refuge in the town and its suburbs, fn.

Lincoln Cathedral

He was pardoned by Henry IV and later became an alderman. There is no evidence that the town as a whole was involved in the rebellions, nor does it seem to have been greatly affected by the Lollardy which flourished briefly in the university. In the mayor and bailiffs were ordered to assist the university authorities in rooting out Wycliffe's followers in the town and university, fn. Oxford was one of several towns which speedily forwarded to the Privy Council a letter of from Richard, duke of York, which came close to inciting rebellion.

No Oxford men were recorded among the supporters of Lambert Simnel in , although he was the son of an Oxford joiner and had been launched on his imposter's career by an Oxford priest. By the early 11th century the walled area of the town was fairly densely built up and there were suburbs. If speculations about the original size of the walled town are correct, fn.

Peter's church was built in the 10th century, fn. The buildings on them seem to have been detached and to have formed an irregular building line along the street; on some tenements buildings lay two or three deep, covering the full length of the plot. Aldate's Street was built on a site without any street frontage. Michael at the Northgate. The building of early water-mills caused many changes in the branches of the river Thames close to the west and south sides of the town. A parallel, perhaps natural, stream on the east side of Grandpont served Trill mill, which may also have existed in the 11th century.

The provision of water to the two Grandpont mills presumably reduced the flow in the stream across Christ Church meadow, and one branch of it, beneath the wall of St. Frideswide's priory, seems to have silted up by the late 12th century. The branch of the Thames passing beneath Oseney Bridge, in modern times the navigation channel, served Oseney mill; before becoming a mill-stream, probably in the 12th century, this branch may have been a natural stream, since it seems to have been called Aldee 'old river' in and later.

Another change in the river, of uncertain date, was the decline in importance of the Shire Lake stream, which branched north-eastwards from the main river before Folly Bridge, crossing beneath Grandpont at Denchworth Bow, and flowing across Christ Church meadow to the river Cherwell. By the road beside it seems to have been more important to the town than the stream itself, presumably for riding the franchises, fn.

The description of Oxford in Domesday Book fn. In addition to St. Frideswide's minster, rebuilt after its destruction in , there were at least five parish churches: St. Peter-in-the-East, St. Ebbe's, recorded between and , fn. Martin's, recorded in , fn. Michael at the Northgate and St. Mary the Virgin, recorded in Domesday Book. Mildred's and St. Edward the Martyr, dedicated to relatively obscure Anglo-Saxon saints, were also in existence by , and St.

Mary Magdalen and St. George in the Castle also may have been pre-Conquest foundations. George's tower to the south-west corner of the castle. Thereafter the motte, with the adjacent St. George's tower, dominated the town. The town's prosperity in the 12th and early 13th centuries was reflected in intensive building activity, although there were setbacks through a fire in , which was said to have burnt the whole town, fn.

Frideswide's priory, fn. The churches founded in this period were All Saints, converted from a secular building in the late 11th or early 12th century, fn. Michael at the Southgate, recorded in , fn. Giles's, founded c. Budoc's, recorded in , and St. John the Baptist, recorded in Martin's church, before a new hall was established in a house on the east side of St. The building of the castle barbican destroyed the first St. Budoc's church. There is much evidence of the continued subdivision of tenements and buildings, fn.

Frideswide's Lane. Mildred's parish, Oseney abbey c. Shop frontages were sometimes as narrow as 6 feet, but the cellars beneath them often extended almost the whole width of the tenement on which several shops had been crowded. Party walls and the maintenance of gutters caused frequent disputes. Most 13th-century Oxford houses were probably timber-framed, with walls of wattle and daub, but stone was used frequently for party walls and gables.

Large stone cellars were built, as in an extensive rebuilding in Cornmarket Street at that date, fn. A large stone house outside North Gate c. On the east side of Cornmarket there were perhaps 12 shops crowded into the first 70 feet from Carfax. There were shops in front of the early inn, Mauger's Hall later the Golden Cross , and a little further north there was a group of 12 shops, averaging only 9 feet in width and very shallow, whose standard rents suggest a planned development.

Some of the High Street shops seem to have been wider, but on the site of nos. Behind the shops were dwelling-houses, usually comprising a hall and chambers, often with detached kitchens, extra chambers, and other out-buildings. An example of the larger type of dwelling-house was Haberdasher's Hall in High Street, which in was a 'great stone house' used as an academic hall; it stood behind a row of 7 shops, separately leased out, and comprised a solar and cellar at each end of a hall, a great solar facing the street, presumably above the shops, and a separate kitchen and stable, all of stone.

John's Hall, at the corner of Merton Street and Magpie Lane, in comprised a hall, two solars with cellars, a wardrobe, and a kitchen, all roofed with stone slates; fn. Frideswide's Lane, then an inn, comprised a hall parallel to the street, flanked at each end by a solar over a cellar; there was also at least one chamber, and a bakery, probably a free-standing building. The main areas of suburban expansion in the 12th and 13th centuries were north and west of the town. There is archaeological evidence for 12th-century settlement in Broad Street and at least part of St.

Giles's Street, fn. Giles's Street c. Giles's Street, and of Worcester Street to the west, seems to have been built up by Giles's Street retained a partly rural character throughout the Middle Ages, and presumably many of the houses near the edge of the built-up area were used as farm-houses. The width of Broad Street accords with evidence of its use as a market-place; it was called Horsemonger Street by the 13th century, fn.

Giles's Street, a similarly wide area, with an early market, fn. Giles's church, fn. A western suburb in St. Thomas's parish developed in the late 12th century and 13th, perhaps encouraged by Oseney abbey, which built St. Thomas's church there in the s. An agreement of c. A survey of Oxford in fn. Thomas's parish, excluding the rural settlement at Twentyacre, near the modern Jericho, and houses, 28 cottages, and 8 shops in Northgate hundred, excluding the detached settlement of Walton. The total of c. Clement's, just across Magdale'n Bridge but outside the town's boundaries; it appears to have been a largely rural community.

The central parishes of All Saints, St. Martin's, St. Aldate's, and St. Michael at the Northgate were the most heavily built up, and the extramural parishes of St. Michael at the Southgate were also densely settled.

Medieval Oxford | British History Online

Property values were on the whole highest in the very centre of the town and along High Street, and lowest in the suburbs. There is a suggestion of an inner ring of poorer property on the fringes of the trading area, in the parishes of St. Ebbe's, St. Peter-le-Bailey, St. Mildred's, and St.

In those parishes the average value of properties was only between 6 s. Mary's parish and 15 s.

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Peter-in-the-East, All Saints, and St. John's parish, however, did not share the characteristics of the other 'fringe' areas; the average property value was 16 s. Areas of medium wealth were St. Aldate's parish and Grandpont between 13 s. Thomas's parish. Most of the shops recorded in were in Cornmarket Street and High Street: there were 77 in the north-east ward and 53 in the north-west, compared with only 8 in the south-west, 7 iri the south-east, and 8 in Northgate hundred.

There were more or less clearly defined quarters for the more important trades, the sites of the freemen's permanent shops. Michael's parish, the latter in St. The shambles were at the west end of High Street, called Butchers' Street c. Martin's and All Saints parishes. Martin's parish were a mercery, probably on the east side of Cornmarket near Carfax, fn. Aldate's Street, fn. Mary's church, in St. Aldate's Street, from Carfax to just below the town hall, in the east end of Queen Street, and in the whole of Cornmarket Street; all those streets were fairly wide.

Aldate's Street was called Fish Street fn. Although corn was sold in Cornmarket Street, that name did not replace Northgate Street until a roofed market-place was built in the street in The Jewish quarter lay in St. Martin's and St. Aldate's parishes, on both sides of St. Aldate's Street. The synagogue, known as the Jews' school and later Burnel's Inn, was on the east side of the street on the site of the north-west tower of Christ Church. John in , fn. The traders who depended on the university for a livelihood were concentrated in St. Mary's parish or St. Among the 13th-century householders in Catte Street were 4 bookbinders, 4 parchment-makers, 4 limners, a copyist, and a scrivener; fn.

John's parishes, fn. In the university's own properties, only 6 schools and 7 houses, lay in the eastern part of the town, all but two in the parishes of St. Mary or St.

Mary's church, which was the centre of the university even before the congregation house was built in the early 14th century. Mary's; some, such as Broadgates and Haberdasher Hall in High Street, were in the commercial area of the town, and were fronted by shops.

Architecturally Oxford was still dominated by its walls, gates, castle, and churches. Nearly all the parish churches were enlarged by the addition of chantry chapels in the later 13th or earlier 14th century; St. Martin's, the town church, St. Peter-in-the-East were particularly imposing, and Merton College by had completed the large choir and sacristy of the new church of St. The religious houses were mostly around the edge of the town; St. Frideswide's priory, refounded in , was the only monastic house within the walls.

Oseney abbey founded in , dominated the western approach to the town, and north of it stood the much smaller Rewley abbey, founded in as a place of study for Cistercian monks. Outside East Gate was the hospital of St. John the Baptist, its buildings north of the road to the bridge, its cemetery to the south. In the s the Dominican friars built their large church and friary outside Littlegate, and the Franciscans built a little to the west.

The Austin friars settled on the site of the later Wadham College in , and the Carmelites moved from Stockwell Street to the king's houses in The decline of Oxford's population in the later Middle Ages led to contraction of the built-up area and some physical decay. There are a few references to empty plots and derelict houses in the late 13th and early 14th century, fn. In it was reported that even in the main streets some houses were being pulled down and others were falling down because tenants, particularly those of houses in multiple occupation, were failing to carry out repairs.

At least three houses on Grandpont became gardens, fn. Inside the walls decay was worst in the eastern part of the town, but it was masked by the expansion of the university, particularly the newly founded colleges, into vacant areas. Between and Merton College acquired much of the land between Merton Street and the town wall.

The Queen's College acquired the northern part of its site, in Queen's Lane, between and , and a frontage on the High Street in Frideswide's priory gave a site, including 9 empty plots, for the foundation of the Benedictine Canterbury College on the site of the later Canterbury quadrangle, Christ Church, fn. A reconstruction of the history of the area between the eastern ends of High Street and Merton Street illustrates several features of Oxford's changing topography in the later Middle Ages.

An inn, the Tabard later the Angel had been extended southwards from High Street as far as Harehall Lane, presumably providing stabling on former house sites. It was in that area that Wayneflete was able to acquire the site of Magdalen Hall. In Cornmarket a hall had become a vacant plot by , and the shops fronting the site needed to be rebuilt in ; fn. A house in High Street was in ruins in , and another, recorded in , had become an empty plot by In Merton Street a large academic hall became a garden between and , and an adjacent hall was ruinous in There are fewer references to decay in the western part of the town, perhaps because of inferior documentation.

A house in Queen Street had become a vacant plot by and a garden by ; fn.


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  • Peter-le-Bailey parish declined seriously in the later Middle Ages, and it seems unlikely that the area escaped the physical contraction and decay evident elsewhere. Sources : R. Figures in brackets show ranking of parishes. Later medieval tax lists provide only the broadest indications of the relative prosperity of different areas of the town, since parishes varied widely in size and social structure and their population is unknown.

    In general the earlier lists show, predictably, that taxable wealth was concentrated in the central commercial area, in the parishes of St. Martin's and All Saints, and was spread thinly in the outer suburbs, notably in St. Comparison of the lists of and see Table I with evidence of property values in suggests that the relatively low assessments of some parishes, which are known to have contained lucrative property, may be explained by the ascendency there of the university, whose members were not likely to be taxed highly on goods.

    Thus the parishes of St. John's were assessed much lower than might be expected from evidence of property values, and it was in those parishes that the university is known to have been most predominant. Some of the parishes on the fringe of the commercial area, such as St. Ebbe's and St. Peter-le-Bailey, contained some wealthy, but probably many poor, inhabitants; both those parishes ranked highly in on the basis of average individual assessments, for relatively few people were assessed there. Peter-le-Bailey became a place for leading burgesses to live in, although few appear to have favoured it before the second quarter of the 14th century.

    Of the mayors and bailiffs between and whose addresses are known, as many as 28 lived in St. Peter's, compared with 30 in All Saints, only 25 in St. Martin's, 13 and 12 in St. Aldate's, and 10 in St. Mary Magdalen parish; few lived in the university area only 9 in St. Mary's and 4 in St. Peter-in-the-East, although both contained numerous High Street sites , and none is known to have lived in St. Despite housing some prominent men St. Peter-le-Bailey parish declined in overall prosperity, and by its assessment had been reduced to almost half that of , and its actual payments in and were less than half its earlier assessments.

    Michael at the Northgate, also on the fringe of the commercial area, was not much wealthier. By that date the suburban parishes of St. Thomas had emerged as centres of population and wealth. Mayors and bailiffs began to live in the northern suburb in the late 14th century, and by St. Mary Magdalen was assessed third highest among Oxford parishes.

    There were several minor changes in the street plan during the later Middle Ages. At least part of the lane between Oriel Street and Alfred Street, known as Shitbarn Lane, was closed before , and the whole of it before Aldate's churchyard. Aldate's churchyard, provided that a way remained open to a tenement there. John's hospital Harehall or Nightingalehall Lane between Logic Lane and Merton Street; the lane, reputedly a haunt of suspicious persons, was closed and in included in the site of Magdalen Hall.

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    Peter's churchyard, and in a strip along the south side of Brasenose Lane was granted to Lincoln College. Although the number of houses was reduced there was a considerable amount of building. The name New Rent, later given to houses built near Carfax in , fn. Several landlords, including Oseney abbey, St. John's hospital, and the colleges, built or repaired properties regularly in the 14th and 15th centuries.

    In John Gibbes, a wealthy vintner and former mayor, leased a large plot of land from the church of St. Michael at the Northgate, and agreed to build houses on it and let them at farm. Aldate's to the mason William Orchard, apparently so that he could rebuild them. Thomas's parish, and it is possible that there was expansion there in the early 15th century; 5 new houses were recorded in the s and s. Thomas's church was largely rebuilt and extended westwards in the 15th or early 16th century.

    In provision was made for the division into several dwellings of a tenement in St. Edward's parish. The scale of college building in the later Middle Ages radically altered the appearance of the eastern part of the town, as large stone buildings and high-walled enclosures became predominant. The 13th- and earlyth-century foundations developed piecemeal, the earliest quadrangle, in Merton College, assuming its shape almost accidentally with the building of the library in the s; later colleges followed the example of New College, founded in , arranging the chief buildings around spacious quadrangles.

    The only medieval college comparable in scale to New College, however, was Magdalen, built between and c. John's hospital outside East Gate. Later-medieval domestic buildings were mostly timber-framed, but sometimes stone was used for the lower walls or for party walls; no. The shops, and sometimes the solars and cellars, were still held separately from the rest of the tenement. In New College granted a lease of a shop and a cellar, each 7 feet wide, and the solar above them which was 14 feet wide and extended over a neighbouring shop in other ownership. In a house called the Garret at Carfax had several solars built one above the other.

    Many houses, particularly those used as academic halls and inns, were large and complex buildings. Those built behind street frontages were usually entered by gateways between the shops. On the far side of a courtyard, and parallel to the street, was a hall containing an oriel window, and above it a great chamber. The south range of the courtyard contained two chambers and on the north was a 'middle solar' with a cellar beneath it; towards the garden, on the west, were more chambers and a brewery.

    The house was extensively rebuilt by Oseney abbey in and , and demolished c. A smaller, neighbouring tenement survived, incorporated in the Clarendon Hotel, until It stood at right angles to the street and contained a barrel-vaulted cellar, mainly of 14th-century date but with a 12th-century arch at its west end. On the ground floor was a room 27 feet by 13 feet with two narrow shops on the street frontage; above was a solar with a fireplace, and in the roof a cock-loft. The ground floor had been 6 feet or 7 feet above the medieval street level, and both the ground-floor room and solar were only c.

    Tackley's Inn in High Street, built c. The hall, which was open to the roof, was 33 feet long, 20 feet wide, and c. The south wall of the building, which survives, was partly of stone and contained a large two-light earlyth-century window; the cellar, of the same date, is the best preserved medieval cellar in Oxford, and has a quadripartite stone vault and carved corbels. Originally it was entered by stone steps from the street. By the property was divided; the eastern part was an inn, probably comprising two of the shops with their solars, the whole of the cellar, and the large rear chamber, while the western part continued as an academic hall, perhaps comprising the other shops and solars and the great hall.

    Thomas's parish in comprised a hall on the street, flanked at each end by a chamber and solar, and a similar house survived in St. Thomas's High Street until the 19th century. By the early 10th century, when there were apparently four moneyers in the town, fn. In the late Saxon period pottery made in Stamford Lincs. Cloth and leather played an important part in the town's economy. Flax-retting and leather-working were apparently carried on in the Grandpont area c.

    Supplying the needs of local consumers, however, played an increasingly important part in Oxford's economy in the 12th and 13th centuries. The royal palace and the castle created business for builders and for victuallers. Royal visits, of course, cost the town money; the mayor and bailiffs spent c. In , while the king was at Woodstock, 42 tuns of wine were taken from Oxford merchants for his use, and in 10 tuns were taken for the king when he spent Christmas in Oxford. Far more important than such intermittent sources of income was the rapidly increasing academic community.

    Until the later Middle Ages most students lived in lodgings or academic halls, yielding substantial rents, providing a body of consumers for Oxford tradesmen, particularly victuallers, and attracting to the town specialist craftsmen such as bookbinders. Although the number of men engaged in 'service trades' such as victualling probably increased greatly in the 13th century, the cloth and leather industries remained prominent; occupational surnames recorded in fn.

    The university's influence accounted for surnames denoting 3 bookbinders, 2 copyists, a limner, and a parchment-maker. No reference was made to many trades, notably fulling, gloving, and drapery, which are known to have been practised in Oxford in the 13th century. Jews had settled in Oxford by , and by the town was one of those in which a Jews' archa or chest for the safe-keeping of their chirographs had been established.

    His initial contribution to the tallage of was the second largest in England, and on his death in his widow paid relief of 5, marks. Jacob of Oxford, grandson of Simeon of Oxford, in conjunction with his brothers in other parts of the country, carried on a large business; his debtors included men from Lincolnshire and Norfolk as well as local landowners and burgesses. Most of his extensive property in Oxford, London, and York was seized by Queen Eleanor on his death in Until the mid 14th century there were frequent references to Oxford merchants, particularly those concerned with cloth and wine.

    A merchant returning to Oxford from London figured in a reported miracle of St. Frideswide c. Ives Hunts. Frideswide's, attracted merchants from all over England. Foreign merchants came regularly to Oxford: French merchants were expected to be there in , cloth was taken there from merchants from Douai in , and Flemish merchants were exempted from Oxford murage in Many Oxford merchants dealt in both cloth and wine. John of Coleshill, who sold cloth at Northampton fair in , supplied wine to Henry III at Woodstock in and at Winchester fair in ; he imported his wine through Southampton.

    Ives fair in ; he was also proctor of the Friars Minor, who obtained for him a grant of exemption from tallage for life. There were strong trading contacts with London in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Oxford complained that in spite of London's acceptance of the charter the mayor and sheriffs continued to disturb Oxford burgesses and make them pay heavy customs, and in the London husting confirmed its acceptance of the Oxford charter.

    Most of the town's leaders in the early 14th century were probably merchants, although the trading interests of Robert Worminghall, apparently the wealthiest of them, are not known. William of Bicester and another Oxford burgess were among merchants summoned to London in to make ordinances for the staple, and in William was exporting wool through London. The continuing wealth of Oxford's merchant class in the early 14th century is confirmed by a royal tallage of The individual taxpayers were assessed on goods worth c.

    In people were assessed for the lay subsidy at a twentieth of movables worth a total of c. An apparent fall in overall wealth was common, however, and it seems likely that methods of assessment had changed and that neither tax gives a reliable indication of real wealth. The most significant change in Oxford seems to have been the death of the two Worminghalls, Philip in and Robert in ; fn.

    There was considerable turnover among leading families between and of the top 10 per cent of taxpayers the family names of fewer than two-thirds survived, and of the top 10 per cent of taxpayers in two-fifths were from families unrepresented in The town's decline in population and overall prosperity, revealed in abundant signs of physical contraction and decay, and by a dramatic fall in its taxable capacity compared with that of other towns, fn.

    Oseney abbey's income from its Oxford property was falling steadily in the later 13th century, largely because of arrears. Nevertheless arrears of rent accumulated and many properties fell vacant. A sharp decline in the early 14th century coincided with, and was probably caused by, a time of high food prices which culminated in the European famine between and John's hospital.

    No Oseney rentals survive for the period between and the Black Death, but the hospital's rental increased again in the s and s, reaching c. John's hospital, and St. Frideswide's priory all took action to recover arrears of rent between and Contemporaries were aware of a decline in the town's fortunes. In William of Bicester was accused by a butcher of carrying out his duties as mayor so badly that during his terms of office 9 years between and the town had declined faster than ever before.

    Oxford's decline probably began with changes in the organization of the cloth industry, which affected many other large cloth towns in the 13th century as entrepreneurs became increasingly aware of the advantages of rural cloth production. There were similar workers in near-by villages such as Islip.

    The evidence of personal names suggests that cloth production was established in many Oxfordshire villages by Other factors, however, contributed to Oxford's decline and, equally important, to its failure to recover from the initial setback. Many of the advantages which had influenced its rise were gradually lost. To some extent its decline relative to other towns reflects a comparative decline in the wealth of its county, fn. Its assessment for subsidy in , although exceeded by that of Bampton and its 10 hamlets, was at least treble those of Faringdon, Abingdon, Bicester, and Banbury.

    By , however, its assessment was not quite double that of Abingdon and not quite treble those of Burford, Henley, and Chipping Norton. Frideswide's and the other great fairs in the later Middle Ages. The cessation of close royal contact with the town and growing difficulties in navigation on the river Thames were probably also important. The significance of river transport may have been exaggerated, fn. Nevertheless, enough traffic passed through Oxford to support several inns, and the university licensed carriers to many parts of the country.

    Another possibly ominous trend for the future of the town's economy was the transfer during the 12th and 13th centuries of a large proportion of Oxford's domestic property to religious houses, either by purchase, gift, or grants in return for corrodies. By 11 religious houses held over properties in demesne and received rents from others; in ecclesiastical corporations held over 62 per cent of the rent-income of the town as assessed for tallage, and another 4 per cent was held by the university and colleges.

    With the outbreak of the Hundred Years War Oxford's wine trade, which earlier seems to have been complementary to its trade in cloth and wool, was seriously damaged, fn. Such a limited economy, while providing secure and profitable employment for a wide range of tradesmen, could hardly support as large a population as Oxford seems to have held in the earlier Middle Ages.

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    If, as seems likely, the number of scholars fell during the later Middle Ages fn. Moreover few of those engaged in such localized trade were wealthy compared with members of the merchant class which finally died out in the mid 14th century. The constitutional victories of gown over town, almost complete by the mid 14th century, meant the loss not only of much freedom and prestige, presumably discouraging settlement in the town by enterprising men, but of powers and privileges that had been important sources of revenue to the town.

    If Oxford had been flourishing in the Black Death might have caused only a temporary setback, but it struck a town which had already lost or was losing many of its economic advantages. Fantastic post, Char. I'm rather getting that 12th century England was steeped in corruption and greed.

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    Not surprising, then, that Robin Hood became such a folk hero. Thank you, Cryssa. Like many other eras, the 12th century had its share of greedy men. The original Robin tales place the 'outlaw' in the 14th century, but it is just too easy to tie him to bad King John. I believe those stories began to appear in the s, but it was the novel Ivanhoe that seemed to make the idea of Robin Hood in a 12th century setting stick.

    Good summary of Longchamp's career, but I would be interested in your analysis of him as a man. He appears to have been very useful to Richard both in Aquitaine and during his captivity, so what explains his utter failure a chancellor? Was he, like Becket, a man who could not cope with power? Or do you have another explanation? I don't buy the argument that Richard was a "poor administrator" -- he was a brilliant planner and exceptionally financially astute, as the entire crusade planning proves not to mention selling Cyprus twice! But Henry misjudged Becket too. Maybe there Richard was too much like his father, in both good and bad.

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