|Subject:||Planning a new town: personnel, process, and product|
|Original source:||1. Public Record Office, Patent Roll, 11 Edward I, m.7; 2. Charter of inspeximus and confirmation (1404) of original Letters Patent; 3. Public Record Office, Rentals and Surveys, SC11/674.|
|Transcription in:||1. H.C. Maxwell Lyte, ed. Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office ... Edward I. 1281-1292. London: PRO, 1893, pp.81-82; 2. William Durrant Cooper, The History of Winchelsea, one of the ancient towns added to the Cinque Ports, London: John Russell Smith, 1850, p.32; 3. F.A. Inderwick, The Story of King Edward and New Winchelsea: The Edification of a Mediaeval Town. London: Sampson, Low,Marston and Co., 1892, pp.153-219.|
|Original language:||Latin (1. translated by J.G. Black)|
|Date:||late 13th century|
[1. Royal commission to the planners, 13 October 1283]
Appointment of Stephen de Penecestre, Henry le Waleys and Gregory de Rokesle to plan and assess the new town of Yhamme, which the king is ordering to be built there, for the barons of the town and port of Wynchelsea, which is already in great part submerged by inundations of the sea and in danger of total submersion; to plan and give directions for streets and lanes necessary for the said new town, for places suitable for a market, and for two churches, one to St. Thomas, and the other to St. Giles, as there are in the aforesaid town of Wynchelsea, to assign and deliver to the said barons competent places according to the requirements of their state, and to provide and give directions concerning harbours and all other things necessary for the said town.
[2. Charter of liberties to the new town, 13 October 1283]
Edward, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine, to all those to whose attention this document shall come, greetings. Whereas, on behalf of our town of Winchelsea, of which the greater part is already submerged by inundations of the sea and whose total submersion is expected daily, we have made provision for a certain new town at Yham, for the allocation of lands and tenements there to the barons of the town and port of Winchelsea, and for them to be enfeoffed thereof, for building on and living in, we wish and grant, for ourself and our heirs, that once those barons have taken possession and begun to build on their plots at Yham, they, together with all their goods and possessions, thereafter shall be as free in that new town (and everywhere else) as they previously were in the town of Winchelsea (and in any other places whatsoever). And they may have the same liberties and customs, which they have by the charters of kings of England who have preceded us, and may use and enjoy the same liberties and customs that were rightly used in times past.
[3. Rental of the burgage plots, 1292]
The following are the plots allocated, handed over, and rented out in the newly-built town of Winchelsea by the mayor and the 24 jurats, and by John de Kirkeby, Lord Bishop of Ely, acting on behalf of the king in allocating, delivering, and renting out those plots. They state, in regard to the fundamental arrangements, that the king holds of the land once of Sir John Tresgoz on the hill where the new town has been founded, as indicated in a survey carried out by Sir Stephen de Penecestre and Gregory de Rokesle, sixty-five and a half acres; of which, an acre (more or less) has generally been valued at £8.5s.1d.
They also state that the heirs of John de Langherst held on that hill, as indicated in the survey, 35¼ acres and 18 perches of land, of which one acre (more or less) has been valued at 52s.¼d.
They also state that John Bone held on that hill, as indicated in the survey, 34½ acres and 31½ virgae, of which one acre (more or less) has been valued at 39s.½d.
They also state that Gilbert de Cruce held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, 10¼ acres and 23 perches. Value [per acre?] 20s.9d.
They also say that John Moris held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, 2 acres. Value 32d.
They also say that William and Richard, sons of Tristram, held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, one acre with a house built thereon. Value 5s.
They also say that John Moris held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, three-quarters of an acre. Value 12d.
They also say that the heirs of Bartholomew Wymund and of his partner held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, one and a half acres. Value 2s.6d.
They also say that John, the son of Reginald Alard, held in a certain location known as Trecherie, as indicated in the survey, one acre. Value 3s.
They also say that the heirs of John Batan held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, one and three-quarter acres and 16 perches of land. Value 3s.1d.
Those same heirs also held a certain mill and its site, comprising 8 perches of land. Which mill with its site still belongs to them, not being needed either by the king or by the town.
They also say that John Moris and his partner held on the hill, as indicated in the survey, 2 acres. Value 40d.
They also say that the heirs of John Batan and his partner held at the foot of the hill, as indicated in the survey, 2 acres. Value 20d.
Total value: £14.11s.5¾d
Total of the aforesaid acreage: 149¾ acres and 8 virgae.
Total of those excluded lands: 17 acres.
There remains from that total, for building the town, 132¾ acres and 8 virgae.
The mayor and jurats also state that of those 132¾ acres and 8 perches land, 87½ acres, one-eighth of an acre, and 7¼ perches of land have been allocated for building on.
And there remain empty 45 acres, one-eighth of an acre, and 45¾ perches, some as the marketplace, some as streets, and some as the cliffs (which cannot be built upon).
Which 87½ acres, one-eighth of an acre, and 7¼ perches of land and the empty land are subject to [payment] of the ">£14.11s.5¾d
They also declare the [following] details of the plots already rented out to tenants in the new town on the hill.
The mayor and jurats also state that in the 16th year of the reign of King Edward, around the festival of St. James the Apostle [25 July 1288], dom. John de Kirkeby, then Bishop of Ely, on behalf of our lord the king, in the presence of the sheriff of Sussex and other nobles, both knights and many others of that sounty, delivered seisin to the community of Winchelsea of all lands contained in this roll, on behalf of the king and the community. He reconfirmed that it would be exempt from paying rent for seven years from the above date. Thus because of that assurance nothing has been paid from the foundation and renting-out up to the present. Regarding which guarantee, the wishes of the king are to be carried out in all things. And to better [assure the integrity of this data] the mayor and jurats, with the consent of the whole community, have set the common seal to this document. Dated at Winchelsea, 27 September 1292.
The village status and modest appearance of modern Winchelsea disguise the fact that for part of the Middles Ages it was quite a bit larger and a south coast port town of some significance. It provides a rare example of the relocation of a town (another instance being Salisbury), but more important it has left us with documentation unique for England, giving us a snapshot of a town fabric and community at a specific date and illustrating the planning involved in founding what was in some, but not all, respects a 'new town'.
How typical this planning was in England may be open to question, for New Winchelsea, the successor to Old Winchelsea, was a relatively late town foundation, undertaken at royal initiative in a period after the Crown had already gained much experience with establishing defended towns in Gascony and Wales; Edward and his supporters and officials continued to be active with urban development in France in 1284/85, for example, he authorized the foundation of the bastide of Monpazier, built as a perfect rectangle, divided into quarters by the grid pattern of streets, and focused around a market square, its medieval layout still largely unaltered today. The same acquired expertise would later be applied to the resettlement of Berwick and Calais after they were captured from the enemy. The New Winchelsea project may have been a more elaborate procedure than normal; certainly it took longer to complete than was the case with other new towns. But the process illustrated at Winchelsea would likely have been similar in its broad strokes to that undertaken elsewhere in the realm, whether in the creation of entire new towns or the expansion of the fabric of existing ones, if not on so grand a scale.
Not a great deal is known about Old Winchelsea, whose physical fabric has been entirely lost to us, and even its precise location (probably somewhere in the present Rye Bay) is uncertain. A reference in the early eleventh century to Wincenesel and one in Domesday Book to a new town founded pre-Conquest on the manor of Rameslie, covering that part of Sussex, are both inconclusive. The first clear mention of Winchelsea comes in the Pipe Roll of 1130/31, while Richard I's charter grant of 1191 confirmed existing liberties granted by Henry II and was in turn reconfirmed by John in 1205. By 1191 Winchelsea and Rye had joined the Cinque Ports confederation, as affiliates of Hastings; and the chartered liberties are mostly exemptions from various tolls, in return for naval service. Several port towns had emerged along the south coast as the Channel took on greater importance, from the eleventh century, as a route for trade and highway between the two parts of the Norman realm, and then as a naval frontier during hostilities with France. The stretch of coast near Winchelsea and Rye was a large bank of shingle, providing a barrier to the tide, yet with one or more channels offering a safe haven for ships to anchor. Not only was the site's Dieppe-Winchelsea route one of the shortest Channel crossings, but its harbour could also serve as a base for warships operating in the Channel or transporting expeditions to France. Edward I on several occasions used Winchelsea as his point of departure overseas.
Old Winchelsea must have been established upon the shingle bank, perhaps by continental fishermen or settlers; one possible origin of its name would be a personal appellation appended to an early medieval term used for a land-mass largely surrounded (at least at times) by water, similar to the sandbank foundation of Yarmouth. By the end of the twelfth century, its convenient coastal situation had brought it prosperity, not least because London merchants found it a useful port. In the early thirteenth century it had some importance not only as home port of a fishing fleet and as a centre for cross-Channel commerce, particularly in exporting wool and importing wine, but as one of the leading providers of ships and sailors for military expeditions, a base for ship-building, the assembly of fleets, and (in the 1230s) docking of a squadron of royal galleys. This would continue to be the case as late as 1350 Winchelsea's anchorage was used by an English squadron before setting out to intercept a French fleet but there were problems on the horizon.
During the decades around the middle of the thireenth century a series of severe storms enhanced the normal, and recoverable, erosive effects of tide on the shingle barrier. Alarmed, the king made repeated grants of murage, from 1244 into the 1260s, so that the men of Winchelsea could bolster its seaward defences. The effort was not enough; at some point in the 1250s the barrier was irreparably breached and incoming tides reached the once marshy area behind, so that a long dyke had to be built across the land that had been reclaimed from the marshes. The shingle bank continued to be eaten away; in 1250 it had been claimed that some three hundred houses were damaged by flooding, Matthew Paris chronicled another inundation in 1252, and in 1271 part of the parish church and a nearby quay were lost to floods. Not surprisingly, the town's economy was being adversely affected, and that meant its value to the king was diminishing: the royal revenues due from the borough, farmed out for over £86 in 1249 could only attract a bid less than a third of that by 1283, and the farmers were having difficulty raising even that reduced amount. Winchelsea was not the only port town jeopardized: in 1258 Romney was said to be perishing because of the effects of flooding, from Winchelsea's direction, on the course of the river serving the port; cutting a new course for the river was contemplated.
In the early years of his reign, Edward I, having barely pulled through the period of drastic social division during his father's reign, intended to take a very hands-on approach to urban affairs (and indeed most aspects of social and economic development) in his realm, and to more closely integrate towns into a system of national government. Having himself visited Winchelsea in 1276, he realized that a longer-term solution was necessary. In 1280 he initiated the process to relocate the residents of Old Winchelsea, which he noted was then largely underwater, to a site about three miles away from their flooded town: a hill with a fairly flat top, situated near the estuary of the River Brede, whose connection to the sea would still enable Winchelsea to function as a port. The prospective town was initially referred to as New Iham, after the nearby village of Iham, part of a manor belonging to the Abbey of Fécamp, which had earlier also held (by gift of Canute) the lordship of Rameslie, and consequently Winchelsea, until Henry III decided (1247) the town was too valuable and revoked that part of the gift. But not long into the redevelopment the new town had become known, doubtless at the will of the relocated burgesses, as New Winchelsea.
The first necessary step was for the king to secure title to the land chosen as the site. Part of this was located on the demesne of the manor of Iham, onto which some of the displaced residents of Winchelsea had already relocated, while other parcels of land were owned by several individuals and religious houses. The acquisition process was also to incorporate the manor of Iham, which included marshland (south of the hill) where too some Winchelsea residents had resettled, but leaving he village of Iham largely untouched. The manor of Iden (to the north of Rye) was also involved in the overall acquisition plan.
Negotiations for buying these lands, or exchanging them for other royal properties, was a task assigned in November 1280 to Ralph de Sandwyco; as steward of the royal demesne lands in southern England, he had expertise in assessing the value of properties and may also have decided precisely what tracts of land on the site would be desirable for the intended purpose. Transfer to the king of these lands appears in some cases an expropriation, while in others negotiations must have been more protracted, although the final outcome cannot have been in much doubt. That part of the process, which required not simply an exchange of one piece of land for another, but also calculation of their relative values, so that financial compensation could be provided for any gap, may have taken some time to complete not so unusual in the acquisition of large tracts of land under multiple ownership; for it was not until October of 1283 that Edward issued the formal commission (above) for the production of a final site plan and, implicitly, the work to bring it to realization. Such a plan had to make sufficient provision not only for residential plots but also for the infrastructure supporting commerce, transportation, worship, and charitable care a necessary basis to attract the resettlement which would in turn bring revenues into the royal coffers.
In the interim, however, Stephen de Penecestre, Iter de Engolisma, and Henry le Waleys had been commissioned (November 1281) to examine the site at Iham and make arrangements for selected plots to be rented out to Winchelsea men for building, according to what they assessed as the value of those plots. Negotiations with the lord of Iham manor had just been completed, and Sandwyco may have had some provisional recommendations on how best to divide up the site, allowing the king, either as a stop-gap measure or as a first phase of layout out the new town, to accommodate some of the burgesses of Old Winchelsea who had already lost their homes to the sea. A new commission to the same effect was issued in March 1283 to Penecestre and Waleys, this time (and perhaps at the suggestion of Penecestre) in association with John de Cobeham, a high-ranking Exchequer official; it suggests further progress in land negotiations.
In February 1286 work was still underway on completing the plan; alone of the planning commissioners, Penecestre remained active, the renewal of his commission directing him to lay out plots on a specific part of the site. Furthermore, for the first time we have direct confirmation of resettlement, for Penecestre was instructed to provide the Exchequer with a list of the plots (presumably identifying location and size), names of those to whom he rented them out, and the amounts of the rents payable. It has been argued that this was a new phase of planning, undertaken as an extension at the southern end of the originally intended site; in that area are the highest of the quarter numbers. However, the name given in the commission to this part of the site, "le Kenel", may rather indicate riverside properties; a delay in settlement there could reflect the slow progress of land acquisition, need to construct port facilities, or lingering concerns of the Old Winchelsea townsmen over the narrowness of the river channel, whose navigability at low tide they thought inadequate. The introduction to the section of the rental dealing with the quayside reads as though that section could have been copied from an independent earlier document, such as that Penecestre was tasked with compiling. If Kenel means channel, then the final commission to Penecestre suggests that a communal quay was by now in place.
Once all acquisitions had been completed, the total area allocated to the new town was about 151 acres and was almost 1.5 km. long, by about 0.75 km. at its widest point. This made it the largest new town founded during the reign of Edward I. As already noted, planning the new town had not waited for the completion of acquisitions. As parts of the site were acquired, work may have got underway to clear trees and those few buildings of the manor and of a small settlement that already existed on the hilltop. Cleared areas could then be surveyed in order to divide up the space between building plots and streets of sufficient width to serve a flourishing port (ancient laws, compiled as the Leges Henrici Primi, specifying that highways should be wide enough for two carts to pass each other).
For the production of the official site plan, two commissioners had, as indicated above, already been selected; Penecestre and Waleys were joined, in the commission of October 1283 by Gregory de Rokesle. In the selection of commissioners, the king was, in the absence of professional urban planners, seeking men with appropriate expertise and a proven record of service to the Crown. As David Martin notes, this choice of personnel shows the determination of Edward I not to lose a valuable port that provided a link with his duchy of Aquitaine (which included Gascony) and furnished ships and sailors for naval expeditions. Ralph de Sandwyco was the obvious officer to carry out the acquisitions; the members of the planning committee may seem at first glance less straightforward choices, but a closer look at the individuals will show how sound the choices were.
Stephen de Pencester (as his name is more commonly rendered today) was a Kent man who had an early connection with London, for as an orphaned minor his guardian was an uncle who was a canon of St. Paul's. From a military family (a namesake having helped fight off a French assault on Dover Castle in 1216), by the time of the civil war, he had apparently already caught the eye of Prince Edward, and for a few months in 1263 was entrusted with the defence of Kent and Sussex. In 1265, following the restoration of royal authority, the Prince, who had been assigned responsibility for the recently formalized confederation of the Cinque Ports and for Dover Castle, made Pencester his deputy in the Ports, which (as the Winchelsea project showed) Edward considered of much importance to the realm, but which had been troublesome during the civil war, between piratic acts and support of the rebels, and now needed a firm hand. In early 1268, Edward added Dover Castle to Pencester's charges. Later in the year he was appointed sheriff of Kent for the usual year's term. As Henry III declined and Edward faced an enhancement of his own status, he upgraded that of Pencester, who from 1271 is no longer referred to as a deputy, but as Warden of the Cinque Ports and constable of Dover Castle in his own right. By that time he had already been knighted.
These twin posts remained his primary role up to his death. His wardenship must have brought considerable familiarity with urban affairs, not simply through his presidency of the confederation's court, but through hands-on involvement in a range of matters; for instance, soon after 1290 he led borough officials on a perambulation of the boundaries of Sandwich (whose overlordship had just been transferred to the king) and ensured a proper record of them was drawn up. But he also served the Crown in other ways: on numerous judicial and other commissions some consequent to his responsibilities as warden/constable, but others stemming from his social responsibilities as a prominent land-owner in Kent, where he held several manors; on what appear to be diplomatic missions suggestive of negotiating skills to Gascony in 1276 and Wales the following year; and as an arbitrator in disputes between men of Yarmouth and Bayonne (1276). It is therefore likely that, before his selection for the Winchelsea committee, he was acquainted with a number of planned towns, as well as with Winchelsea itself. That Pencester held the wardenship and constableship (even though deputies occasionally carried out his duties) up to his death indicates that the demanding Edward was well satisfied with the performance of his duties. His annual salary increased from about £28 in 1272 to £300 in 1283, when he was reconfirmed in his posts. However, this amount had to cover the costs of Pencester's own staff, which doubtless grew somewhat over time. That staff may have included engineers and masons, whether permanent or occasional employees men Pencester might have been able to call upon for the Winchelsea project.
Besides this remuneration, he received various favours from Edward, as prince and king. For instance, in January 1271, he received licence to crenellate his home in Kent, which in consequence became Hever Castle; here he lived with his first wife, co-heiress of a tenant-in-chief of the Crown. A second marriage (to a descendant of Hubert de Burgh, by whose side Pencester's namesake had fought at Dover) appears to have been shortly followed by a move to a new home, on the banks of the Medway; for in May 1281, a second licence to crenellate was issued to him and his new wife, and the result was Allington Castle, where he is later seen owning a flock of swans large enough to warrant employing a swanherd. By October 1290 the couple had relocated to an estate that had long been in Pencester hands and had the family name, also near the Medway and furnished with a deer park; today we know the property as Penshurst Place. Stephen de Pencester must be a rare example from medieval England of a non-noble for whom we have three surviving (albeit altered) examples of his homes.
Penshurst was his last residence, and his tomb monument can still be seen in the parish church. In March 1297 he arranged for Robert de Burghersh to be appointed his deputy as warden (Burghersh would succeed Pencester in the wardenship), and in September a royal writ was uncertainly addressed to him or to whomever was taking his place in the constableship. We can interpret these as signs of declining health, given that in April 1298, his widow Margaret took over his wardship of a mentally handicapped boy in the Pencester household.
In 1285 Henry le Waleys and Gregory de Rokesle were considered, by the Cinque Portsmen at least, to be the leading wine merchants in England; as such they had a vested interest in ensuring not only the survival, but the continued utility of Winchelsea as one of the key points through which Gascon wine was imported. They were also the most prominent leaders of the London community during the early part of Edward I's reign, taking turns at monopolizing the mayoralty for over a decade. Both quickly won the new king's trust and favour, in part because although quite different in their social origins they were allies in suppressing the populist movement which had previously controlled the city, supported the Montfortian rebels, and even after Evesham had maintained a strong strain of indépendantisme, jeopardizing Edward's succession. The two men are seen working together in several matters, in the service of London and of the king, and may even have been friends.
Gregory de Rokesle was the leading member of his generation of a landed Kentish family, lord of the manors of Rokesley and Lullingstone in that county; but, with several other members of his family, he moved to the greener pastures of London sometime in the 1250s. He took with him traditionalist-patrician attitudes and, before his death in 1291, acquired further estates in Kent, Sussex, and Surrey, as well as houses in Canterbury and Rochester, not to mention extensive real estate in London. Although technically speaking (in terms of gild affiliation) a goldsmith, his business was, like that of most wealthy townsmen, diversified and he also dealt in such products as wool (he being one of England's major wool exporters), cloth, grain, fish, and wax, as well as in very large volumes of wine. The royal household was among the customers of his private business by 1258. By 1266 he had been commissioned as one of its official purveyors of wine shipped to Southampton, and in 1275 this duty was expanded to the entire country when he was appointed the king's butler. In both his private and public involvement in the wine trade, he doubtless was acquainted with Winchelsea and some of its leading merchants.
Rokesle left that post in 1278 but his background as a goldsmith was then put to work as Master of the King's Exchange in London, which gave him responsibility for administering aspects of the king's foreign loans (in addition to making more modest loans himself) and the work of royal mints throughout England, a post he held up to his death. In that role he came to know Iter de Engolisma when in 1283 the pair audited the accounts of the Exchange in Ireland. Many other less permanent roles in the king's service followed. Meanwhile, his service to London was considerable: as a ward alderman; as one of the sheriffs of 1263/64, then again for part of 1270/71 (partnering with Waleys) when the king replaced the chief administrators of a rebellious city with his own supporters; and finally as mayor for an extraordinary seven consecutive terms of office between 1274 and 1281, and a final eighth term in 1284/85. Edward preferred his cities to be governed by men he could rely on to do his bidding.
Henry le Waleys was of a similar age to Rokesle and, like him, an immigrant to London, possibly from Gascony, or possibly from the neighbourhood of Chepstow, a small town and port on the Welsh border, which the Normans developed into a frontier defence by first building a castle and then importing colonists and surrounding their settlement with a wall. If the latter, Waleys might be said to have had an early experience of a successful planned town. After coming to London he is first seen making a small wine sale to the king's household in 1252; for two decades, from 1259, he was a regular supplier of substantial amounts of wine to the household. Political ambitions were at first hindered by suspicion he was a Montfortian sympathizer, but he worked his way past that by acquiring considerable property in the city and in Kent and by marrying the daughter of former mayor Adam de Basing and thus associating himself with one of the city's patrician families. He became an alderman in 1269, partnered with Rokesle in the shrievalty the following year, and was elected to his first mayoral term in 1273 to displace a champion of the populist movement. He acted quickly to reverse or undermine the reforms of his predecessor favouring the lesser gilds, and particularly to bring the victualling trades under stricter controls.
A self-made man, Waleys was energetic, strong-willed and authoritarian; where Rokesle was more low-key and conciliatory, content to restore and preserve London traditions, with minor improvements, Waleys was prepared to impose more drastic changes and to take the offensive against perceived problems. Both men were among a handful of London representatives summoned to Paris in 1274 to consult with Edward I concerning arrangements for his return to London for his coronation; Edward wanted to be sure things would go smoothly. In advance of Edward's arrival, Waleys cleared out the smelly and messy butcher and fishmonger stalls cluttering Cheap, down which the royal procession would pass, and then decisively quelled the consequent popular protest led by the previous mayor. This appears to have created, or confirmed, the king's favourable impression of him, and given his familiarity with Gascony through his wine trade or perhaps even his origins he was very soon employed by Edward on a diplomatic mission to disturbed Bordeaux. This was followed by the king appointing him as mayor of Bordeaux in 1275, a trouble-shooting job. Waleys' wine business must have benefited from the programme of town-founding directed by Edward, as Duke of Gascony during his father's reign. He would later (1284) acquire further experience of turning these bastides into profitable operations by acquiring from the king a 10-year farm of the revenues of six of them, most of which were recent foundations and one perhaps still in process of completion. Michael Prestwich [Edward I, University of California Press, 1988, p.310] has pointed out that this linkage helps reinforce that the Gason bastides, although part of a larger trend of urban foundation in France, were at the same time a facet of the Edward I's policy in consolidating control over and exploiting financially his French territories. Waleys would also be employed by the king on further missions to France in 1286, 1288, 1291, and 1296.
But he had to divide his time attending to interests and duties in Gascony with those in London. The legacy of factionalism, partly from the civil war and partly from socio-economic divisions, remained alive in London during Rokesle's extended stint as mayor. Edward was dissatisfied with the level of crime in London and the inefficiencies of its judicial administration; the growing number of royal supporters within city government helped return hard-liner Waleys to the mayoralty in 1281. With an explicit mandate from the king to restore order to London, Waleys, during his three consecutive terms as mayor, introduced measures to improve policing and social control, allow tighter regulation of the craft gilds, and reform aspects of financial administration. These measures included building a new covered market (to house the butchers and fishmongers ejected from Cheap), constructing at Cornhill a new combined gaol and conduit house, into which spring water from Tyburn was channelled, setting up new weigh-beams for weighing corn (and extracting associated fees) en route to city mills, and designing a new housing project at St. Paul's; rental income from the housing project and the market were to support the high costs of maintaining London Bridge. Clearly Waleys had the mentality of an urban planner.
Further evidence of that is his inclusion not only on the Winchelsea planning committee, but in a subsequent project of the king to restore the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed where, during the English army's storming and sacking of it in March 1296, there had been much damage and loss of life. To consolidate his hold on the town, Edward needed to re-establish it as a border garrison, port, and market centre; this would entail rebuilding and colonization by settlers loyal to him. At the Parliament held in autumn 1296 at Bury St. Edmunds, he instructed two dozen towns to nominate representatives to advise him on the matter. This broad consultation apparently proving unsatisfactory, Edward then sent summonses to specific individuals from 21 towns to come and discuss the project with him at a Great Council. This colloquium, which took place at Harwich later in 1296, has been characterized as "a little Parliament of town planners" by Beresford, and he notes it as the sole occasion when Edward assembled a council of townsmen solely to address issues of town planning. Waleys, newly returned from a mission to Gascony for the king, was one of the Londoners summoned by name. The meeting appears to have given Edward what he wanted, for at the beginning of the following year he commissioned a slightly smaller working group with the task of going north and assisting the king's leading officials there with specific arrangements for reviving Berwick, including assessing rents and drawing up rental agreements with merchants, craftsmen and other colonists. Again Waleys was one of those chosen.
Waleys not only supported this project through his expertise, he also put his money where his mouth was and sought to capitalize on the new opportunity by taking up plots at Berwick, building houses on them, and acquiring a private quay there. By this time in his life he had amassed, through his own acquisitions and through his marriage, substantial properties across London one of his mansions there being sufficiently grand that a Great Council actually convened there in 1299 and in several counties around the city. With a large and steady income from his properties and from favours received from a grateful monarch, he was able to reduce his mercantile activities in the later part of his life (he died in about 1301). His leadership in London had also been curtailed. Tiring of his aggressive programme of innovations, several of which had given rise to controversy and public discontent, the London aldermen reverted to Rokesle in the mayoral election of 1284; but he did not last out a full term. In June 1285 King Edward, frustrated with his the mayors' inability to restore law and order in unruly London, suspended the city liberties (and Rokesle's final mayoralty with it) and placed his own warden in charge of the city. That warden was Ralph de Sandwyco, and he was to remain in charge of London for most of the next eight years. When the king was finally prevailed upon, in 1298, to restore local government, it was felt advisable to give his favourite, Henry Waleys, another mayoralty, even though technically inappropriate since Waleys had retired from his aldermanry some years before. But once the city aldermen, many of them new men, had regained confidence, Waleys was not re-elected thereafter.
We should not think that these men Sandwyco, Pencester, Waleys, Rokesle, and Cobeham were strangers to each other when the king brought them together in the planning of New Winchelsea. Their membership in the community of Kent's landlord class could have occasioned them coming in contact, as could their roles in royal service. The businesses of Waleys and Rokesle relied primarily on the ports for which Pencester had responsibility. Pencester and Sandwyco sat on several judicial commissions together between 1281 and 1283. In 1279 Pencester presided in London's Guildhall over a trial which resulted in a large number of offenders being hung for clipping the king's coin a matter in which Rokesle, as the newly-appointed Keeper of the Exchange, must have had some involvement. Sandwyco, Rokesle, and Waleys would become even more closely associated once the first had become warden of London and took up residence there; Sandwyco subsequently sat with one or other of them on several judicial commissions. Cobeham's connection with Pencester has already been indicated (in a foot-note); in 1282 he was assigned to audit the accounts of Rokesle pertaining to repairs of London Bridge carried out during the latter's mayoralty, and Cobeham would work again with Waleys on a judicial commission in 1284.
This planning committee apparently reported to John de Kirkeby, a very senior official in the Chancery and evidently high in the king's favour, as he was about to be made Treasurer of England (1284-90); it was likely he who kept the king informed on progress. According to a complaint made in 1303, after Kirkeby's death, he may have been involved in initial negotiations for acquisition of land at Iham. Ironically, it was standing up to Kirkeby in 1285 that led to Rokesle being removed from London's mayoralty. We can hardly imagine that with their other responsibilities, the commissioners were present in New Winchelsea throughout the course of the work required there to make the plan a reality. Presumably they all met with leading townsmen of Old Winchelsea early on in the process, to ascertain the needs and concerns of those who would likely be leaders in the new town. And one of more of them would have needed to be on-site periodically, to give instruction to surveyors, to oversee the progress of workmen and of subordinates tasked with assigning lots to settlers and drawing up interim rental agreements, and to address any problems that may have arisen, in consultation with town representatives. As warden of the Cinque Ports, Pencester (who had sat on a judicial commission with Kirkeby in 1279) may have been the most involved in the process.
With which of the townsmen the planning commissioners consulted we do not know. The membership of the council of jurats is unknown at that period. It seems probable it would have included at least some of those who could afford to rent multiple plots in the new town, many of whom were merchants and/or ship-owners and some of whom like the Alards, Paulyns, and perhaps Vincent Herberd were branches of land-holding families in the lower ranks of county gentry: men who well understood the linkage between land, wealth, and power.
The Alards are the family that particularly stand out, numerically and in terms of their wealth and local importance. Sometimes described as an ancient Saxon family (on the dubious assumption the surname derives from Aethelwald) with branches, by the thirteenth century, in Sussex and Kent, it is hard to know if the many men with this surname sometimes rendered as Athelard or Adelard were necessarily kin or simply descended from different men with the Christian name of Alard (which was not uncommon in Flanders and parts of France). But the family appears to have been prominent in Winchelsea for some time. James, son of Alard, is evidenced holding property in the vicinity in 1196. In 1225 Winchelsea's William son of Alard twice received royal letters of protection in the context of planned sea voyages, one of them to accompany a force led to Gascony by the king's brother, while in 1229 Stephen Alard of Winchelsea was one of several merchants licensed to sail to Gascony. This Stephen may have been the same who, with Henry and John Alard and others, were in 1235 ordered to restore ships and cargoes they had illegally captured off the Brittany coast. In 1242 William Alard of Winchelsea held, by one-quarter knight's service, the manor of Snargate (near Romney), among whose appurtenances were the lastage of Winchelsea and customs of its port.
Between their various members, the Alard family held 36 of the plots listed in the 1292 rental. Another reflection of the family's local status is that the main parish church, towards the cost of whose construction Alards had likely been leading donors, housed monumental tombs of several of its leading members (it once having been thought that one or more were transferred from Old Winchelesea's church, but now is believed that all post-date the construction of the new St. Thomas'). These tombs, all still to be seen, were in chapels where chantries were founded by family members: one by Stephen Alard (1312), the other (ca. 1319) by Robert, son of John Alard, for spiritual benefit of the founder, his late wife Isabel, and his late brother Henry Alard (whose executors probably contributed to the project); in each case an agreement was reached with an abbey in the region to provide an operating budget for chantry maintenance, from the revenues of properties in the southern counties which the founders transferred to the abbeys. One of those chapels was dedicated to St. Nicholas, patron saint of traders a devotion appropriate to a community like Winchelsea's.
The Alards were able to use the allocation of plots at Iham, where at least one family member held land prior to the site's selection for the new town, to create what is almost a clan compound covering the entire western half, and a good chunk of the remainder, of Quarter 8. We may suspect they were in a position to pick the cream of the crop, either because the family's prominence accorded it precedence, or because one or more of them were closely involved in the planning process. The leading members of the family likely resided on the large plots they held in that quarter, which had access directly onto the town's widest street, leading past the marketplace, and close to Third Street, which ran down to the harbour; two of the Alards opted for corner plots, while three others chose long, narrow plots with street access at both ends. Remains of the fabric of medieval houses on Quarter 8 plots originally owned by Reginald Alard sen. and Gervase Alard sen. indicate multi-room hall-houses with large vaulted cellars.
Reginald sen. was one of the Winchelsea captains commissioned in 1267 to patrol the English Channel in on the lookout for the piratic squadron of Henry le Pessuner, king's enemies, and distinguished himself in some way during Edward I's conquest of Wales. Either Reginald sen. or Reginald jun. (no distinction being made in the record, nor can we be certain of the precise relationship between the two men) was given a royal safe-conduct in 1285 to go on a trading voyage in his ship called La Vache. Perhaps this was Reginald jun., who, with fellow Winchelsea man William de Bourne, was arrested for some unspecified offence by the seneschal of Ponthieu; they managed to escape from prison, obliging the king to pay a large sum to compensate and smooth over the matter (although the king pardoned them in 1289). By contrast, Gervase Alard jun. was in better favour with Edward, to whom he gave particularly distinguished naval service as an admiral. Stephen Alard would also hold the post as Admiral of the Western Fleet, in 1324, and in 1335 undertook repairs to one of the king's ships; he was also deputy butler at Winchelsea ca.1309-16 and is seen importing wine and victuals from Gascony in 1320. Nicholas Alard was another sea-faring member of the family; in 1298 he purchased from the Exchequer a ship, La Nau Dieu, which the Crown had acquired through forfeit, and in 1307 was licensed to export corn and victuals to Gascony and bring back wine. In 1292 he held plots in Quarter 8 and others and on the quayside, and acquired further plots in later years. He was identified as a jurat in 1306.
It is, however, Thomas Alard whom Beresford singled out as the local man who may have proved most helpful to the planning committee. The primary grounds for this suspicion are that Thomas, like Henry le Waleys, was later summoned by name to participate in the Harwich colloquium on the rehabilitation of Berwick, and was also a member of the working group which saw plans through to realization. Thomas was more a man of business than a sailor; his known naval service went no further than assisting a royal clerk (1295) in arresting ships along the south coast and sending them to a fleet assembly point; he also readied the ship La Nicolette (perhaps his own?) to transport the king's daughter to Brabant in 1294 or 1295. But as one of the town's leading merchants, he would have had definite ideas on how the new town could best be configured to fulfill its functions as port and redistribution centre. He is seen in the role of king's bailiff for Winchelsea, Rye and Iham manor in 1296/97 and again in1303 and 1305, and may possibly have held it throughout that period, up to his death, with Gervase Alard jun. succeeding him in 1306.
In addition to local consultants, the planning committee would have required technical assistance. There were in medieval England no professional architects or surveyors as we understand them today, although there were full-time practitioners of some of the techniques that came to be associated with those professions. There is no reason to imagine that any members of the planning committee possessed such skills, nor is it very likely that Winchelsea had such practitioners among its residents, even though the surname Machon, recorded for several individuals in the rental, may at some time in the past have derived from the occupation of mason.
If master masons, whose practical experience (individually and communally) of construction with stone and wood brought them an understanding of the structural and aesthetic design implications in building, were the precursors of architects, then surveyors also had forerunners in 'measurers'. In the twelfth century, universities were including geometry in the fields of study they offered, and during the first half of the thirteenth there were appearing texts on practical geometry that is, the application of geometry to solve engineering and surveying problems. In addition to someone who was tasked with drafting a concept design for the layout atop Iham hill, applying geometric forms that were considered symbols for elements of Christian cosmology, there must have been one or more measurers who, perhaps using poles and/or ropes of fixed lengths, marked out on the landscape the positions of streets, quarters, and plots; this was a task on which a mason might have been employed. Whether these fixed lengths were determined in virgae, or whether that measure was simply used to calculate areas once plots were laid out, is unknown. There have not survived the financial accounts of the planning committee, which would reveal the employment of such men and the purchase of their equipment, but in the case of Edward I's foundation of the bastide of Baa (1287) a large rope is recorded as having been bought, probably for such a purpose.
The layout of streets, plots, and facilities at New Winchelsea, presumably verbally described or (less likely) cartographically depicted in some document for the king's review and approval, can be reconstructed with a fair degree of confidence thanks to the survival of the original rental of the burgage plots; from it we gain insight into medieval understanding of urban planning principles. It was a classic layout using a grid pattern of streets to create largely rectangular blocks, known at that time and for centuries later as quarters; each of the 39 quarters was systematically assigned a number, a designation which survived down to the eighteenth century. Together with the 79 harbourside properties (which were not included in the numbering system), the quarters on top and sides of the hill encompassed 802 plots; this was considerably more than the three hundred houses Matthew Paris claimed were destroyed by the tempestuous tides of 1250, although of course such figures are only estimations, if not guesstimations, and that storm did not wipe out the entire settlement. That the streets were also sequentially numbered may or may not have been a standard practice, but was a rational approach when the town was new and (most) streets had yet to establish any role, character, or association. As was common in medieval towns, these streets would acquire more meaningful names over time.
In addition to the numbered quarters, slightly larger blocks of land were assigned for the marketplace, which was placed on the central part of the hill in alignment with the principal road into town from the hinterland villages to the west and southwest (the connection with Rye, to the north, necessarily being by water), and for the principal parish church and its cemetery. Four acres on the east side of the site were given (1285) by one of the landowners to the Franciscans for a friary, and the king must have preferred not to interfere with this (particularly if the friars had already begun to build there); Sandwyco's negotiations may have been complicated by this development, and any preliminary street layout adjusted to circumvent that area. Around the periphery of the residential area were a few other open spaces: some not fitting into the grid pattern layout, others outside the boundaries of the acquired properties, while ten acres at the southern tip of the roughly triangular site had been reserved by the king, for uses unspecified. the north-western corner of the area later enclosed by defensive fortifications was the remains of the village of Iham, including its church dedicated to St. Leonard, which remained a parish and liberty jurisdictionally outside the borough, though (neighbouring a settlement whose residents had chartered privileges) it became increasingly depopulated and impoverished.
The streets anticipated as being the main thoroughfares those running north-south along the eastern and western sides of marketplace and churchyard were made wider than the others. North-south streets paralleled each other, with the east-west streets crossing them roughly at right-angles, but not unvaryingly so. At the east end of the beach-like river frontage was to be built a quay where ships could load and unload (with the nearby estuary providing sheltered anchorage), while at the west end was a dock for the ferry to Rye, on the far side of the estuary. It is possible that the plan included provision for a couple of public wells, but such are unlikely to have received notice in a rental and are only known from a document of the next generation; however, it is probable that Ralph de Sandwyco had learned of the existence of springs emanating from the hillside, and some of the more prosperous of the new town's residents would likely have tried digging wells soon after settling in. This seeming inattention to water-supply was not through any lack of foresight, but due to limited options given the hill-top character of the site, and perhaps limited mandate. The case of Winchester, refounded ca. the 880s as part of the Wessex burh programme, shows that the authorities were quite capable of including the incorporation of a complex of water-channels within an urban planning process, and the expansion of Lynn ca.1100 evidences something similar.
In July 1288, perhaps spurred on by floods following several major storms during the previous year (credited with finishing off what still remained of Old Winchelsea), the new town was formally handed off to the townsmen by Kirkeby, now not only Treasurer but also Bishop of Ely, as the king's representative. He had also been authorized by the king to appoint, in anticipation of future elections, the new town's council and first mayor an officer requested by the townsmen and at first refused, then conceded, by the king, who blunted the effect by leaving in superior authority the bailiff answerable to him and over whose appointment he had control. This administration would be responsible for continuing the process of allocating plots not yet taken. We must assume the vast majority of plots were taken by former residents of Old Winchelsea and residents of Iham, including those of the few houses incorporated or demolished, there the house of the sons of Tristram le Frere, beside Quarter 22, being one apparent instance of incorporation; a number of Iham residents are evidenced among those renting (by their surnames and from a survey of Iham lands made as part of the foundation process), but we cannot know for certain which of these were refugees from Old Winchelsea, or whether they now relocated into New Winchelsea or simply took plots there as a source of income and/or burgage privileges. Nor can we be certain whether, or how many, new settlers were attracted from further afield.
The rental we have was not drawn up until four years after the hand-over of the new town; the dozen properties in the hands of unnamed heirs are indicative of deaths of original tenants during the interim. It was common for town-founders to allow a grace period in which new settlers would not be subject to rents or taxes, to give them a chance to erect dwellings and start earning a living; this may help explain the delay with the rental, although, as noted above, it was preceded by the interim draft requested from Pencester (see above), and conceivably by a subsequent provisional draft compiled by the borough authorities after hand-over of the town (perhaps no more than a running list of tenants and properties) for those parts of the town in which plots had already been allocated. The king granted a grace period of seven years, beginning from the hand-over. Compilation of the final draft the fair copy we have today and perhaps the precise calculations of ground rents, must also have been waiting for mechanisms of local government to have been re-established, for it would likely have been the mayor and council who had to apportion out the rents in a manner that was equitable, on per-acre rates already identified, yet produced a specific total payable, through the bailiff, to the Exchequer. The rental was produced not as a report, but as a working document that continued to be used to as late as 1363, when the names of original tenants were copied over onto a new listing, identifying properties whose value had declined following damage by enemy raids.
Though the plots varied in value, by far the most common valuation was at a farthing per virga (or 40d per acre) per year; where plots sizes involved a fraction of a virga, rents were rounded up or down to (as a general rule) the nearest farthing or sometimes to the nearest penny, though with minor variations perhaps decisions in the field by knowledgeable assessors. This may have been an ancient estimator, perhaps stretching back to the planning of the Anglo-Saxon burhs, or even back to the Roman Empire (where the gnomon was a similar measure used in laying out colonia). We should not imagine that these rents represented the potential value of the properties once built on; the king aimed merely to recoup the traditional revenue that the land acquired for the project would have generated, and any profit would come to the royal coffers from the business that an urban settlement would generate and from the tax base (burgesses being taxed at a higher rate than rural residents). The challenge for the planners was to apportion the value of the land fairly amongst the various lots into which it was divided.
Although it is very risky to generalize on the subject of burgage tenement sizes, layouts and rents, we know it was often the practice, at least in town centres where space was limited, to lay them out in a form whose narrower dimension represented street frontage (this enabling a greater number of residents to have convenient street access) while the bulk of the property stretched back into the block bounded by streets. Insofar as it has proven possible to reconstruct tenement layout in New Winchelsea, this is the predominant pattern we see, although widths and depths vary partly a response to the topography and partly an intent to create properties of varying sizes that would meet the differing needs and means of the prospective tenants (or "requirements of their state" as the king's commission puts it). Historians have suspected the perch (or multiples thereof) as a likely standard for street frontages of burgage plots, and this appears applicable to many of the New Winchelsea plots. The run-of-the-mill townsman of modest, if not meagre, means might thus have rented a property one to one-and-a-half perches wide by four to six perches deep. In this context it seems worth noting that early examples of burgage rents, notably from towns with Anglo-Saxon origins, are often 1d. or 2d. per year; for places acquiring borough status in the Angevin period, higher assessments, such as 6d. or (particularly) 1s., tend to be found. If we apply the farthing estimator to the earliest rents, it would suggest a size of 4 to 8 virgae. However, this extended hypothesis becomes rather tenuous. Urban tenements whose width was about a perch and whose depth several multiples of width, remained common into twentieth century England (I myself grew up in a suburban terrace house of such dimensions). More germane, archaeological evidence from Winchester suggests a perch was a characteristic width of twelfth and thirteenth century wood-framed houses there, whereas at Sandwich, further along the coast from Winchelsea, early fourteenth century properties whose gable end fronted onto the street ranged from about 1.5 perch to a little over two perches in width.
The valuation of land changes abruptly when the rental reaches the quarters which had sides facing onto the marketplace (quarters 19, 23, 34, and 28). To maximize the number of such plots, these facing properties all had relatively narrow frontages; the planners evidently expected them to be taken mainly by artisans/shop-keepers, whose businesses would benefit financially from the location. The groups of plots on each side have the appearance of terraced rows, whose buildings would either be fronted by shop windows or perhaps by removable benches from which residents would sell their wares or services. Identifications of the tenants support this interpretation, showing them to include leather-workers, metal-workers producing goods for personal and domestic use (cutlers and goldsmith), food services (butchers and a baker) and others providing a mix of goods and services (tailor, apothecary, and barber). Although we do not know the occupations of the majority of the residents looking out on the marketplace, virtually all held no other properties in town, which further supports the notion that many, if not most, were of the artisan class. Thus the surrounds of the marketplace, together perhaps with the initial stretches of streets leading off it, formed what was essentially the shopping district of the town.
The tenants of these combined commercial and residential properties were charged higher rents (60d per acre). Although the number of female tenants of New Winchelsea plots seems quite high, it is not surprising that none of the possible artisan/shop-keepers gathered around the marketplace are women; there is an unusually high proportion of unmarried women tenants in Quarter 28, on the south side of the marketplace, but no clear reason for this. Just off the marketplace we find others, in properties of the lower rent level, who probably also chose their plots for its proximity to the market and its clientele: more butchers and bakers, and a possible fishmonger; the seeming scarcity of fishmongers in a town where fishing was a major industry is probably explicable by intent to use the quayside as a fish market, as was certainly done later. In an earlier age marketplaces often evolved in the shadow of the parish church, so that fair trading could take place with Divine oversight; but by the late thirteenth century commerce was far more regulated by secular authority and the New Winchelsea planners clearly saw no need to reduce the high-yield properties bounding the marketplace by consuming that land with a church.
It does not seem that the socio-economic elite of the town were interested in properties facing directly onto the noisy and very public marketplace; their preference was for homes situated between marketplace and port, and in close proximity to the principal parish church of St. Thomas, which was constructed on a cathedral-like scale, although then may have been damaged by French raiders (see below) and much later a good part demolished because the impoverishment of the parish prevented maintenance of the fabric. Apart from Quarter 8, where the Alards were dominant, Quarter 19 just north of the marketplace attracted some of the wealthier townsmen. The few businesses we can identify as gathered around the marketplace suggest artisan-retailers of small items or high-turnover items (as with foodstuffs). Large numbers of vaulted cellars (many still existing) in the more northerly part of town, where lived the wealthier townsmen, are indicative not simply of the higher level of investment they could make in their houses, but of a different kind of commerce. This commerce required suitable (cool and secure) storage for imported goods, primarily wine, but perhaps also preserved fish or merchandize for which a quick sale was expected. Warehouses at harbourside would have been used for storage of many mercantile cargoes, particularly in the case of goods intended for transhipment to other English markets, but are unlikely to have been suitable for long-term storage of wine. Furthermore, this type of commerce involved the local sale of such items, requiring not only a measure of storage but also space for retail, although the locations of the largest number of known cellars are in the part of town nearer to the port, with only a couple associated with the marketplace. Cellars located on corner plots may in particular have served such a commercial purpose, some as taverns (which would also have stored and served locally brewed ale), accessed by patrons descending from street level. These subterranean shops could have been operated by the tenant of the house above, or rented out to other operators on a long-term basis or (in the case of visiting merchants) for brief periods. Most of the cellars were installed within a couple of decades following the foundation of New Winchelsea, some in pits produced by excavating sandstone for construction of the houses above.
The harbour was another part of town where rent values were raised. The river approached from the west and, where it passed by the site on its northern side, became a marshy estuary beneath a steep slope that separated harbourside from the main body of the town. The narrow strip of ground between cliff and river was not worth dividing up into quarters; it seems the planners initially toyed with the idea, but quickly abandoned it. At 48d per acre the plots there were not as expensive as those around the marketplace, but still reflective of a commercial zoning. Although several townsmen appear to have had their homes here (some perhaps being fishermen or ships' masters), other plots were taken by burgesses who held property elsewhere, and might in those cases have been used for mercantile warehouses and/or sheds for fishing-nets and ship's equipment. Nor should we ignore the possibility of the presence of at least one inn or tavern. Conspicuous by their absence are female tenants of port properties.
Apart from the four skinners who held adjacent plots in Quarter 31, perhaps grouped there on the edge of town to be near waste land where they conducted their messy and smelly occupation, and away from most other residents, there is little indication of occupational clustering in neighbourhoods; but this may simply be because the occupations of most tenants are not identified (and neighbours with the same occupational surname could have been relatives, rather than practitioners of that occupation). The risk in taking occupational surnames as indicative of actual occupations performed by their owners is illustrated in the Winchelsea rental by the case of Nicholas Pistor, who was a forester not a baker, and vice versa in the case of John Forester,baker; they evidence how occupational surnames were becoming hereditary by this date.
Seventh Street was the dividing line, below which plots were rented at a lower rate (36d. per acre). This was perhaps no more than a reflection of the fact that they were near neither harbour nor marketplace; in addition residents would have further to fetch water from the river although the hill was ringed with springs, there is no evidence of an communal well at this time. It was on this cheaper land that the hospitals were located, their inmates having less need for access to market or port. The western and eastern sides of this part of town were sparsely occupied, in part because religious institutions took up some of the land, and because a few townsmen took on large secondary properties there, probably as arable or pasture. The small central section, on the other hand, was relatively densely populated, but still with a range of plot sizes. It may be seen as the 'poorer' part of town; when hard times fell on the borough in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was the tenants here who tended to abandon their homes.
690 property-holders have been identified from the rental, the great majority holding just one plot and in most cases presumably living on those properties; we cannot be certain how many of these were Old Winchelsea residents, and how many migrants attracted from elsewhere by the refoundation. A few non-local tenants would not have been permanently resident: in Quarter 17, fairly close to both the marketplace and the route down to harbourside, two or three members of the gentry took plots on which they likely built town houses for the use of themselves and/or their manorial officials (of which the neighbouring forester may perhaps be one); produce from estates they held in the vicinity would have been sold in New Winchelsea's market (perhaps even exported), and necessaries for their household use purchased there or in nearby shops, and being borough house-holders would likely have exempted them from most local tolls on such goods, as well as giving them access to the borough court in the event of trade disputes. Much more in evidence than these outsiders is a predilection on the part of some families to rent adjacent properties; to what extent this may reflect blocks of family holdings in Old Winchelsea, and to what extent parents keeping an eye on newly independent children (or, in some cases, aging parents living close to adult offspring), we cannot say, of course. The Alard family grouping in Quarter 8 is the most conspicuous of these, but Alards also held properties in many other parts of the town. Some of these were personal residences, others may have been for ancillary uses (such as gardens, orchards, keeping livestock, or storage), but many were surely investments: properties that could, once demand for real estate exceeded supply, be rented out to others at a higher rent than the rent of assize, bringing in modest but relatively reliable annual revenues, in contrast to the less certain profits of commercial ventures. Rents for developed properties may well have grown substantially higher than the amounts due the king.
The refoundation of Winchelsea was the largest and most complex such project undertaken by Edward I and took longer to complete than the new towns founded in Wales or Gascony. Nor was it quite the same speculative investment as were many new town foundations of an earlier period. In the latter kind of project a founder's focus was on identifying an advantageous site on land he already owned, then providing incentives to attract settlers who were capable of developing it into a commercially competitive centre. With Winchelsea it was a case of protecting an existing fiscal and naval asset, already furnished with townspeople, by acquiring lands where its established success as regional market centre (although its interland was modest), international entrepot, and maritime port could be revived and even enhanced. There was provision in the plan for growth, with more plots than strictly necessary to support the Old Winchelsea populace, and the more well-to-do townsmen themselves gambled on attracting new settlers, by taking on properties excess to their personal needs, with a view to renting them out to newcomers at a tidy profit.
Ensuring that the new town had a viable future is why the king, at about the same time as he formally commissioned the planners, granted to those barons of Old Winchelsea who chose to relocate in the new town at Iham that once they had begun to re-establish themselves in their new homes, the new town would be accorded the same chartered liberties and local customs as possessed by Old Winchelsea. In April 1288, with the official opening of the new town, he reiterated the transfer of liberties and specified that the townsmen could hold them by fee farm and be governed by a bailiff, as in the old town. Perhaps by separate provision, the new town was licensed to hold a market three days a week (again as in the old town) and two fairs during the year, also to be held in the marketplace. Thus a dedicated marketplace (as opposed to a market held in a wide area of a street) was seen as an important element of the planned town, and it was assigned a large area independent of the numbered quarters.
Although the king did not forget about the new town, once it was open for business in 1293/94, for example, he paid for the building of a bridge on one of the approach roads Much work would have been left to the resettled townsmen, in terms of building homes and (in a few cases) private wharves, digging cesspits and wells, erecting parish churches, and perhaps raising a structure to serve local administration. Around Winchelsea, stone was relatively plentiful, and the homes of the wealthier townsmen appear to have incorporated more of it than was commonly found in southern towns of fourteenth century England. Quarries in the vicinity of Hastings seem to have been the major source of stone. There was already a quarry on the rocky hillside when the king acquired the Iham site, while excavation of the numerous cellars may have provided some of the construction materials for the above-ground portion of houses. We should not imagine, however, that there was an abundance of stone-built houses in New Winchelsea; even those with stone vaulted cellars probably had, in most cases, above-ground structures that were timber-framed or some mix of timber and stone. Houses of pure masonry were not common in any medieval English towns, although timber support posts were, from the late twelfth century, generally set atop a stone plinth, to remove them from the rotting effects of being set in the ground.
Two churches were specified in the king's instructions to the planning commissioners because Old Winchelsea had been served by that number. In the master-plan, St.Thomas' the primary church, whose parishioners would have included most of the leading merchants, living between marketplace and quayside was assigned its own area not far north of the marketplace, between Quarters 13 and 14, and bordered by streets on all sides. The scale on which St. Thomas' was rebuilt and perhaps was intended to be from the first, given the large area of land assigned to it, allowing unobstructed views suggests that the wealthy townsmen, who would have been its sponsors, had been far from impoverished by the loss of their old homes, and wanted a monument to their wealth, status, and piety located in the centre of their neighbourhood rather than immediately overlooking the marketplace. St. Giles', whose parish incorporated the poorer parts of town, was allocated another large area occupying what would otherwise have been the southern half of Quarter 21, a similar distance from the marketplace, but to its north-west; its rectory was adjacent. The site plan also provided for three hospitals (at least two of which had existed in Old Winchelsea): two offering a home for deserving townsmen and townswomen who had fallen on hard times, while the third possibly for care of lepers. It presumably fell to the townspeople to fund the rebuilding of churches and hospitals, during the years of grace.
Success or failure?
The most current study of New Winchelsea argues that "all the available indications suggest that for the first 50 years following its foundation the town flourished." For the most part the place performed as expected. The townspeople settled into their new homes, the wealthy weathering the crisis well enough, and the poorer struggling to overcome the setback and doubtless hoping to improve the flimsy, hastily-built houses they must have had to erect. As would happen anywhere, some families prospered and multiplied, others declined and disappeared. Plots were sub-divided or amalgamated to meet changing needs; some plots around the edges of town may never have been built on. In the years at the end of the first decade after its relaunch, Winchelsea accounts of revenues show an increased number of rents received, and borough revenues increased generally. Yet if the men of Winchelsea were grateful for the king's initiative to save their community, it did not prevent them, when late in Edward I's reign a royal official came to arrest ships for royal service, from objecting that the hardship they had suffered left them unable to contribute, or from complaining that the king still owed them for the costs of ships and crews impressed in the past.
Certainly Winchelsea fared better than the contemporary initiative to create a Villa Nova on the Isle of Purbeck (Dorset), near the southern shore of what is today Poole Harbour, perhaps with the intent of competing for a share of the commerce frequenting other ports of that area (Poole and Weymouth being mesne boroughs that had acquired market rights mid-century). The commission (January 1286) to lay out streets and plots for a new town at Gotowre, on land purchased for that purpose on the edge of the parish of Studland, near its boundary with Corfe, was phrased in very similar terms to that issued for New Winchelsea. It was followed up in May with a royal charter modelling Villa Nova's privileges on those of Melcombe Regis, itself modelled after London, and with a separate grant of market and fair; this suggests that plans had by then reached some stage of fruition. Such advantages failed to do the job at Gotowre. The commissioners were both royal servants, but had no evident experience or expertise in town planning, and the foundation is unlikely to have started with a base of existing commerce or a mercantile resource. Neither the town nor its church (if one was even built) are much evidenced thereafter and it may simply have failed to attract enough settlers to make it more than a small shoreline fishing community. By 1326 the town (now referred to as Newton) and its meagre revenues which included a fee paid by the burgesses collectively for the right to lay out their nets to dry had been assigned to Corfe Castle, which held warren over much of the Isle of Purbeck; that burgesses were living there indicates that a few of the burgage plots had found tenants, but notenough to warrant the settlement having its own court. The impression is that it had not prospered, and it later disappeared without trace, ignored by county maps when they were drawn up from the late sixteenth century. By that time the settlement appears to have contracted to no more than a farmstead with the name Newton, and there remains uncertainty about the precise location of the site on which the Gotowre was planted, for it may have been given over to farmland and/or woodland, the name Newton also persisting in conjunction with other topographic features; what is today referred to as Newton Studland is suspected as having been situated at one end of Newton Bay, near the Goathorn peninsula (a name that may be a corruption of Gotowre), but this is a matter of debate.
The sea had managed to destroy the fabric of Winchelsea, but not its community. But the sea had not yet finished its efforts. The main problem faced initially was with silting of the port (exacerbated by ships dumping ballast and land reclamation elsewhere along the river), a key facility in the local economy, given the high number of residents who were merchants, fishermen, ship-owners, sailors, or those who earned a living servicing ships or sailors. In addition, the sea was pushing more shingle into Rye Bay. Moreover, the king was, through his foreign wars, the cause of damage to the asset he had sought to preserve. In 1295 the French, after capturing much of Gascony, began raids on English ports; Dover suffered badly in August, but an assault on Winchelsea was driven off by a Yarmouth fleet. The following month Edward made a five-year grant of murage to Winchelsea. Given Edward's policy with the bastides of Gascony and towns in Wales, it is hard to imagine he did not intend that Winchelsea be fortified; site selection and the compact plan of the hilltop settlement, with marsh and cliffs on the eastern side and a barrier zone of open land on the gentle western slope, look to have had defensibility as one consideration. Yet, in the circumstances of the 1280s, fortification would not have seemed a top priority, but rather an envisaged second phase to commence once the community was back on its feet and local administration was fully re-established. Events outpaced intent.
Initial defences took the form of a ditch and rampart around the site, reinforced over a period of time with a few gateways, perhaps timber, at key access points from the port, and from the south and west. A further grant of murage in 1321 (for seven years) led to more activity, probably in terms of rebuilding one or more gateways in stone and topping parts of the rampart with stone wall. It may be noted that Sandwich, which was more heavily involved in the foreign war effort as a launchpad for expeditions and supply ships, also only had little by way of urban defences (although there was a modest castle) until the early fourteenth century, when a rampart/ditch/palisade was constructed; the addition of stone walls and gates at Sandwich was even tardier than at Winchelsea, though there must have been similar pressures to strengthen coastal defences in the context of the war with France here too it seems to have required an actual assault to stimulate upgrades.
The war had other adverse effects on Winchelsea. With the Cinque Ports and their mercantile fleets being so vulnerable to enemy attack Winchelsea would face at least three more attacks during Edward III's reign and to the privateering rampant in the Channel, and with silting making Winchelsea's harbour inaccessible to larger ships, in the second half of the fourteenth century the king tended to look further east and west for places where warships could be built, repaired, or based; international commerce was likewise redirected. Port towns such as Southampton and Bristol would come more to the fore. At the same time, naval demands must also have taken a toll on locally-owned ships and manpower, as was also a factor in the decline of Yarmouth.
Disruption of the wine trade and risks to shipping in the war environment, the growing burden of taxation to finance the Edward III's wars, the decaying Yarmouth fishery, and reduction of population by plague (with yet further disruption to commerce) all contributed to making things difficult for Winchelsea residents. This was capped by a devastating French raid in 1360 even before which there is evidence of abandonment of quite a few properties and in the next generation a successful Spanish assault in 1380. The town's fortifications, perhaps still incomplete, not only were unable to keep attackers out, but were seriously damaged by them, while the reduced population meant fewer defenders. These sackings destroyed some houses, killed or injured a number of inhabitants, and scared away many others. In 1384, following a plea to parliament from the town, an official enquiry described Winchelsea as desolate and almost destroyed; even allowing for hyperbole, we may suspect that the community had been seriously weakened.
Despite attempts to remedy the situation, by 1414 the populated area of Winchelsea had so greatly contracted consolidating into the northern half of the site (21 quarters, comprising the commercial core) that the townsmen petitioned to build a new, smaller defensive circuit around it; a royal enquiry the following year concurred that the old defensive circuit was redundant and could not be successfully defended. The king gave permission and, as the remaining community strove (with moderate success) to recover from past setbacks, it did manage to erect part of the second ring of walls; but this circuit too was never completed. Continued deterioration of the harbour, combined with the trend towards larger vessels needing deeper water, eventually persuaded Winchelsea's merchants and mariners to move elsewhere.
The kinds of difficulties faced by New Winchelsea were not so uncommon. To take just one other example, one of a number of new towns founded by the Bishops of Winchester on their estates was Francheville ('free town'), established on the episcopal manor of Swainston on the Isle of Wight, alongside a channel leading into the Solent. In 1256, a year after obtaining royal licence for a market and fair, Bishop-elect Aymer de Valence granted by charter the same liberties as other episcopal urban foundations (such as Alresford) and for some years thereafter the See's coffers were modestly swelled by new rental income and market tolls. Subsequently known as Newtown, it was, as part of the manor, acquired in 1284 by Edward I (who aimed at acquiring the entire island, which he would accomplish in 1293); the king visited the following year, doubtless partly to inspect his new acquisition, and he took the opportunity to confirm the town's chartered liberties. The economy of the place appears originally to have been based on fishing and salt harvesting, but Newtown's site, on a large sheltered bay on the north-west coast of the island, must have suggested it a potentially good location for maritime commerce, and perhaps (to the king) a naval base for defence of the Solent; if so, there is no evidence it was put to naval purposes or that its residents were ever in a position to contribute ships to the navy.
On the other hand, Newtown's location made it vulnerable to attack, and it may have suffered such on several occasions, from the Viking period up to the Hundred Years War, with the French assault in 1377 causing extensive damage. As with Winchelsea, silting of the harbour and its inability to accommodate larger ships was another problem, while earlier in the century an infestation of rats (according to local legend) and then plague were setbacks. Although taxation records of 1334 show the episcopal manor and town assessed at twice the value of Newport (the principal town of the island), commercial competition from the latter, as well as from Yarmouth both towns being new foundations of the 1170s and perhaps Southampton too, may have been a more significant factor in the failure of Newtown to thrive for long. Nonetheless, royal confirmations of the town charter in 1393 and 1413 indicate that the residents were still trying to make a go of it; fatal economic decline and depopulation seem to have waited for the Early Modern period. Although Newtown retained urban status up to the nineteenth century (as a Rotten Borough), it is today barely populous enough to be deemed a village, although the medieval street pattern survives and outlines of many of the medieval burgage plots, laid out by the bishop's officials, remain discernible.
Winchelsea too had its (quite lengthy) moment in the sun and, if it failed something that did not really set in until the sixteenth century it was not a failure of the planning/transplantation process of the late thirteenth. That process was carried out by capable people, well informed by experience gained in urban planning and plantation elsewhere, with a good understanding of the fundamental needs of urban communities, in consultation with local leaders, and made possible by the resilience of medieval communities in the face of crisis. Rather, the failure was to follow up on the refoundation phase with sustained efforts to combat the clogging up of a harbour that lacked a deep-water channel from the start and to furnish the settlement with adequate defences. This made Winchelsea more vulnerable to the consequences of the foreign policy of the English Crown, in terms of physical insecurity and disruption of international commerce, while its naval obligations as a Cinque Port imposed financial burdens on its ship-owners, who were the lifeblood of the local economy. It was their abandonment of the town that eventually transformed it into a village whose modern appearance belies its importance as a medieval town. Edward I put considerable effort into salvaging Winchelsea because it was valuable to him, and to the realm, as a maritime port; but it was the town's over-dependence on the sea for its livelihood that doomed it.
"not being needed"
"at the foot of the hill"
"Gervase Alard jun."
"John the clerk"
"William de Sandherst", "William Pate"
"Ralph le Buf"
"John de Iwherst"
"John Grik", "Matthew de Horne"
"Philip, son of Laurence"
"House of St. John"
"Houses of St. Bartholomew and Holy Cross"
"vulnerable to the tides"
">Ralph de Sandwyco"
"not so unusual"
"Iter de Engolisma"
"John de Cobeham"
"has been argued"
"completion of acquisitions"
"David Martin notes"
"possibly from Gascony"
"programme of town-founding"
"representatives to advise him"
"by Stephen Alard"
"application of geometry"
"decisions in the field"
"reconstruct tenement layout"
"no clear reason"
"have been identified"
"estates they held"
"new rental income"
|Created: February 16, 2011. Last update: January 8, 2019||© Stephen Alsford, 2011-2019|