MEMBERSHIP Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval monasteries Battle topography mesne boroughs property rental burgage tenure urban design planted towns town-founding migration recruitment occupations burgesses community guilds administration
Subject: A planned monastic town and its settlers
Original source: British Library Ms. Cotton Domitian A ii, ff. 15v-18v, 21v
Transcription in: J.S. Brewer, ed.. Chronicon Monasterii de bello, London: Anglia Christiana Society, 1846, pp.12-21.
Original language: Latin
Location: Battle
Date: ca.1105


The surrounding banlieu having been brought into the possession of the abbey, and the construction of that church likewise proceeding, numerous men were recruited – many of them from neighbouring regions, and more than a few from parts overseas. To each of them those monks who were in charge of the construction work allocated a messuage of specific dimensions in the surrounds of the [abbey] site. These can still be seen today as they were originally laid out, with their customary rent and service. Those messuages are as follows:

1. The first messuage stands on the north side of the gateway to the [abbey] courtyard, next to the house for pilgrims, called the hostel. It was held by Brihtwin, who was the beadle.
2. The second was of Reinbert de Beche. Each of these pays 7d. annually, at Michaelmas, and is to provide a man for one day only for making hay at Bodiam; likewise for repairing the mill, and is to make one seam of malt.
3. After these comes the messuage of Wulmer, which likewise pays 7d. at the same term and performs the same labour.
4. The messuage of Malgar, the smith, likewise 7d. and the labour.
5. [That of] Eluric Dot, 7d. and labour.
6. William the cordwainer's, 7d. and labour.
7. Edward Gotcild's, 7d. and labour.
8. Ralph Dvcgi's, 7d.
9. Gilbert, the weaver's, 7d. and labour.
10. Dering Pionius', 7d. and labour.
11. Legarda's, 7d. and labour.
12. Elfwin Trewe's, 7d. and labour.
13. Godieve's, 7d. and labour.
14. Godwin's, son of Colswein, 6d. and labour.
15. Godwin the cook's, 6d. and labour.
16. Edward the cleaner's, 7d. and labour.
17. Robert the miller's, 7d. and labour.
18. Robert de Havena's, 7d. and labour.
19. Selaf the oxherd's, 7d. and labour.
20. Wuluric the goldsmith's, 7d. and labour.
21. William Pinel's, 7d. and labour.
22. Lambert the cobbler's, 7d. and labour.
23. Ordric the swineherd's, 7d. and labour.
24. and 25. Sevugel Cochec's, 5d. at Michaelmas, and labour; and for the other messuage next to it, 5d. on St. Thomas's day and labour.
26. The messuage of Blacheman the ploughman, 7d. and labour.
27. William Grei's, 7d. and labour.
28. Robert's, son of Siflet, 7d. and labour.
29. Seward Gris', 6d. and labour.
30. Eluric the storesman's, 7d. and labour.
31. Wulfwin Hert's, together with land around the messuage, 11d. and labour.
32. and 33. Next to the parish church of St. Mary, on its west side, is the messuage of Lefwi Nuc, which at the aforesaid term (that is, Michaelmas) pays 7d. and labour.
34. After that comes the messuage of Gilbert the foreigner which, together with the land pertaining to it, is free and quit, except for tithes from its land, which it renders, and for two services a year: one to Canterbury, the other to London.
35. [That of] Eluric de Dengemareis is free and quit, except only that Eluric undertakes summons [of his tenants] on his land in Dengemareis, when it is obligated to perform its service.
36. Benedict the steward's, is free and quit of everything.
37. Maurice's, 7d. and labour.
38. Edric's, who casts the bells, 7d. and labour.
39. Gunnild's, 7d. and labour.
40. Burnulf the carpenter's, 7d.
41. Eilric cild's, 7d. and labour.
42. Eilnoth the cobbler's, 7d. and labour.
43. Francenfant, 7d. and labour.
44. and 45. Eldwin the cook's, two, 13d. and labour.
46. Emma's, 7d. and labour.
47. Elstrild Nonne's, 6d. and labour.
48. Peter the baker's, 7d, and labour.
49. and 50. Sewin's, two, 13d. and labour.
51. Robert de Cirisi, 15d. and labour.
52. Mathelgar Ruffus', 7d. and labour.
53. Siward Stigerop's, 7d. and labour.
54. Goldwin's, 7d. and labour.
55. Edwin the smith's, 7d. and labour.
56. and 57 Sevugel's, two, 10d. and labour.
58. Gotselin's, 7d. and labour.
59. Russell's, 7d. and labour.
60. Lambert's, 8d. and labour.
61. Ailric the baker's, 12d. and labour.
62. Aeilnoth's, the son of Fareman, 8d. and labour.
63. Gilbert the clerk's, 7d. and labour.
64. Lefwin the baker's, 13d. and labour.
65. Herod's, 11d. and labour.

Along the other stretch of the road

66. Orgar's, 14d. and labour.
67. Chebel, 7d. and labour.
68. Dering's, 7d. and labour.
69. Leffelm's, 7d. and labour.
70. Benwold Gest's, 7d. and labour.
71. Wulfric the swineherd's, 5d. and labour.
72. Emma's, 7d. and labour.
73. Slote's, 7d. and labour.
74. Gosfrid the cook's, 7d. and labour.
75. Godfrey's, 5d. and labour.
76. Lefwin Hunger's, 7d. and labour.
77. Edwin Cniht's, 5d. and labour.
78. Goldstan's, 7d. and labour.
79. Wulbald Winnoc's, 7d. and labour.
80. Brembel's, 6d. and labour.
81. Robert Barate's, 6d. and labour.
82. Lefflet Lounge's, 3d.
83. Edilda Tipa's, 5d. and labour.
84. and 85. Golding's, 5d. and labour; for the other next to it 5d, and for it he neither makes malt, nor provides a man for the haymaking or for the mill.
86. Eluric Curlebasse's, 7d. and labour.

On the east side of St. Mary's

87. The messuage of Wulfwin Scot, 7d. and labour.
88. Hugh the sacristan's, 7d. and labour.
89. Humfrey the priest's, 7d. and labour.
90. Payn Peche's, 7d. and labour.
91. Durand's, 7d. and labour.

Along the other part of the road

92. Juliot Lupus', 7d. and labour.
93. Elfwin Abbat's, 7d. and labour.
94. Siward Crull's, 5d. and labour.
95. Sevugel the reed-cutter's, and labour.
96. Brictric the gardener's, 7d. and labour.
97. Elwin the sacristan's, 5d. and labour.
98. Cheneward's, 5d. and labour.
99. Baldwin the cobbler's, 5d. and labour.
100. Osbert Pechet's, 8d. and labour.
101. Cocard's, 5d. and labour.

On the other side of the road, alongside the monks' wall

102. The messuage of Elfwin Hachet, 7d. at the feast of St. Thomas and labour.
103. Eilnoth Heca's, 7d. and labour.
104. Blacheman of Bodeherstegate, 7d. and labour.
105. Reinbald Genester's, 7d. and labour.
106. Eluric Corveiser's, 7d. and labour.
107. Brictric Barhe's, 7d. and labour.
108. Elfwin Turpin's, 7d. and labour.
109. Roger Braceur's, 7d. and labour.
110. Walter Ruffus', 7d. and labour.
111. Humfrey Genester's, 7d. and labour.
112. Godwin Gisard's, 7d. and labour.
113. Siward Crull's, 5d. and labour.
114. Brunieve's, 8d. and labour.
115. Wulfwin the carpenter's, 8d, and labour.

The town of Battle, laid out as these messuages of pre-determined dimensions, can be seen to have remained in the same shape up to the present day. As mentioned above, all accordingly have the obligation to provide, from each household, a man for one day for haymaking and for repairing the mill; each of whom will receive one and a half loaves of bread and something to accompany it. Also they are to make malt, should it prove necessary, each of them [from] one seam [of grain]. An abbey servant, using a horse belonging to the monks, is obliged to carry each seam to each house and deliver them to the tenants. Once the malt has been produced, the tenants must turn over the correct amount to the abbey; on which day each of them should have two loaves with something good to accompany it. In the same fashion, if it proves necessary during haymaking or mill-work to go for more time than is the legal requirement, they cannot be forced to do so; but, when requested, they should go if they can. Yet if anyone is preoccupied with other business and unable to go, he should not be charged with it in court nor be fined for it. And the same principle holds in regard to the regulation for the making of malt.

The men of this town are called burgesses, because of the superior privileges of this pre-eminent place. When they violate secular law in any regard so that they are impleaded and liable to being fined – the case being tried before the abbot or the monks or their officials – if convicted, they are to provide surety for payment of a fine of [up to] fifty shillings specified by royal custom, at the discretion of the presiding officer. And when a new abbot comes into office at the abbey, the burgesses of the place are to pay the abbot one hundred shillings for their liberties.


In Sandlake are 31 acres stretching as far as the [abbey] infirmary; which place is called Dune. On the other side of the road, where part was once used as a vineyard, and in Celvetege – these being on the south side of the church -- are an estimated 36 acres. Next to these, in the land of Chapenore, there are fifteen acres, besides 12 acres held by the church of St. Mary.


There is a certain piece of land, lying between the orchard adjacent to the abbey precinct and the fish-pond on the south side [of the abbey?]; this is called Quarrere and there are 4 acres there.

On the other side of the road, next to the orchard which adjoins the house called the hospital, are two acres in Herste. Next to them there is a messuage with two acres belonging to it, where the clothing of the monks is washed, and another three acres there.... On the west side of the town lie ten acres of the best land some of which, being cultivated, give a plentiful yield of corn....

Next to the town, on the east side, are 11 acres belonging to the fief of Ucheham and they pay 11d. This land is called Cook's land. Beyond these lie 5 acres, reaching as far as the edge of Sandlake, which similarly pay 5d. At that point there is also one acre on which the house called the Gildhall stands....

There are also two gildhalls in the town: one, as stated above, in Sandlake named for the Gild of St. Martin; the other is on the west side of the town, the part called Claverham. There is yet a third outside town, near the fish-pond below Quarrere, for the use of the peasants who live outside the town. So that the abbot must, at particular times of the year, provide them with as much [grain] for making ale as to any of the others; but he shall nominate a poor man on each occasion to take his place and drink with the others. There is an obligation for candles collected from each man to be offered at the altar of St. Martin by the senior members of the gild. At the gild drinkings, if any forfeitures take place in that context, they shall belong to them; but if outside it, then to the abbot. In regard to the deceased, the abbot does not contribute anything when the others do.


This early survival of an urban rental, contemporary with that from Winchester was one of several documents related to Battle Abbey's property endowments, its tenants, and its court jurisdiction, copied in the latter half of the twelfth century by an abbey scribe – a man seemingly with some education in the law and perhaps even experience as a lawyer before he became a monk – into a set of parchment leaves that were later bound together with a slightly later chronicle of the abbey; it thus became inaccurately identified with that chronicle, though it has more the character of a manorial custumal, recording documents and oral traditions related to the abbey's jurisdictional privileges. This compilation was prefaced by an account of the Norman invasion and victory at the so-called Battle of Hastings, which was repeated more summarily by the later chronicler. The rental itself has been dated by Eleanor Searle to the period 1102-1110, and probably close to 1105.

The Benedictine abbey dedicated to St. Martin, but commonly known as Battle Abbey, was founded by William the Conqueror upon his being required by the Pope (ca. 1070) to do penance for all the bloodshed resulting from his invasion of England. That William was adamant in founding the abbey on the somewhat inhospitable ridge-top site in Sussex where Harold's army had set up its defensive line supports the later abbey chronicler's implication William also had in mind a monument to his victory. The earlier chronicler claimed that William had in fact, just before the battle, vowed to build a monastery there if God gave him victory; but this story is considered a mid-twelfth century abbot's fabrication, arising out of an effort to tie the abbey more closely to the Conqueror's personal plans and persuade Henry II that his predecessor had granted that the abbey should be independent not only of royal officials and obligations, but of any episcopal authority. A writ of Henry I, dated to 1103/06, confirmed to the monks of St. Martin of Battle a purported grant of William I, itself possibly based on forged documentation, referring to a market; Henry's further writ a decade or so later confirmed a Sunday market (modelling the abbey's market rights on those already possessed by Hastings), again based on a suspect charter supposedly issued by the Conqueror, and granted a three-day fair in July. The fair's purpose was to draw more long-distance traders than the weekly market would have attracted, in order to meet some of the needs of the monks that could not be met through local production, and to help sell the wool from abbey flocks.

Regardless of William's true intent in founding his abbey, he wished it to be self-supporting as far as possible, and to this end endowed it generously with manors and patronage of churches in several counties, as well as with jurisdictional privileges and exemptions (such as from toll throughout the realm). He also assigned the abbey a banlieu of all the land within a league of the high altar; the tenants, produce, and revenues of this territorial liberty were to be applied to maintaining the abbey. Donations by other Normans and purchases by the abbey expanded its real estate, although patronage of the monarchy and greater nobility did not persist long, and the abbey never acquired the relics or associations that might have made it a pilgrimage destination. Whether part of William's plan or, more likely, that of the monks subsequently imported from France, it was decided to set up around the abbey a settlement of laymen who could provide labour, specialized services, and commercial goods to the monastic community; the monks themselves were forbidden from engaging in commerce or craftwork (other than that of scribes). Work on the abbey buildings was progressing sufficiently by 1076 that part of the church was usable, the monks brought over from France could move out of the huts they had erected for themselves, and one of them could be appointed as abbot. Not until 1094 was the church complete and able to undergo consecration. By now the Conqueror was dead. He had hoped the monastic community would be a large one, growing to perhaps 140 monks; how far this may have been achieved is dubious, and in 1393 (following outbreaks of plague) only 27 brethren seem to have been in residence. The abbey was nonetheless one of the wealthier religious houses in England for much of the Middle Ages.

Domesday Book makes no mention of any town at Battle in 1086, which cannot be taken as firm proof none existed since that compilation has many gaps; but it does refer to 21 bordars living there as part of a new settlement, not in existence prior to the Conquest. These may have been labourers working on the construction project and living in huts, and the settlement may not yet have been converted to a borough; or, since the abbey banlieu was not part of the royal demesne and its residents were not contributory to royal custom, it may be that the Domesday commissioners had no interest in any community of burgesses already established there. Whichever is the case, the lay settlement had, by the time of the rental, expanded considerably, with 110 tenants – seemingly all, or almost all, of them actually resident – occupying 114 messuages; other than cases specifically mentioned in the rental, we must assume that tenants with the same name are different persons. Total population is harder to figure out, since we do not know the size of the households of these tenants – number of children, number of domestic servants – nor whether at this early period any householders had, as was later the case, sublet space (even down to individual rooms) within their tenements to others who, not being men of the abbey in the same way as the official tenants, are ignored by the rentals. A population of around 500, not including the monastic community itself, would be a very approximate estimation.

This growth of Battle's population was a consequence at least partly, and probably largely, of deliberate recruitment, and the settlement was evidently conceived of as a borough – a status accorded probably in order to attract settlers to the rather isolated site – even though the writer uses the term villa. Thus the town and monastery were closely interdependent from the beginning, the former serving as an intermediary with a secular and commercial world from which the monks needed to be, to some degree, isolated, and the latter acting as the townspeople's main employer and consumer of goods. The monks of Bury St. Edmund's likewise, in the decades following the Conquest, used its banlieu to house soldiers, craftsmen, and traders who provided the monastery with services, and this town became second in importance in Suffolk only to Ipswich, acquiring one of the leading fairs of the country and developing industry specializing in luxury goods – such as textiles, bed-covers, books, and bells – of the type fair-comers, the monks, and pilgrims to the shrine of St. Edmund might purchase. Battle did not fare so impressively, but it provided a living for a modest population throughout the medieval period.

Searle's detailed and insightful analysis of the rental, combined with comparison with later rentals and other records, has thrown much light on the character of Battle's urban fabric and community. The town was divided into two main districts: Claverham along the main road running north-westwards from in front of the abbey site and Sandlake running south-eastwards along that road. The first was the larger and more populous part, the road there becoming the core of the High Street. The High Street ended at a point where the ridge along which it ran forked, and in the angle of that fork later rentals show a livestock market. Searle argued that this served from the beginning as the marketplace for all commerce – positioned at a distance from the abbey to keep the monks free of the bustle, noise, and mess there. But it may be that some marketing took place all down the High Street, from the livestock market to the triangular green in front of the abbey gateway, where the lay community's principal official, the beadle, had his house, and just beyond which was about to be built the parish church. One of the ridges stretching beyond the livestock market also attracted habitation, but of a more rural character – or at least less intensive and less evidently commercial/industrial.

The rental of ca. 1105 was compiled in a systematic fashion reflecting these divisions between neighbourhoods. Claverham was covered first, the compiler starting at the abbey gate and proceeding north-westwards along one side of the High Street as far as the livestock market, this stretch comprising messuages 1 to 31; then he returned to the abbey gate, crossed the street towards the future site of the parish church and proceeded along the other side of the High Street. This part of Claverham was, by the thirteenth century, known as Middleborough, but the procedure of the compiler suggests it was already differentiated from the other part. The total number of messuages in Middleborough was 65. After reaching the market for the second time, he continued along the road beyond the fork to cover the less populous part of Claverham, apparently but perhaps informally known by the thirteenth century as Bremblegh, returning to the market at plot no. 86. Returning once more to the abbey gate, he then listed the properties in Sandlake (nos. 87-115): first those on the north side of the road (following it round as it turned south to Hastings), then (one final time returning to the abbey) those on the south side, behind part of which lay the abbey precinct (not yet fully walled). The author then went on to describe the areas that comprised the banlieu, those identified as adjacent to the town boundaries exemplifying the agricultural and pastoral lands ringing Battle.

Assuming that the town took shape – in terms of laying out plots, recruiting settlers, and construction of their houses – probably between about 1080 and the time it was decided a written rental had become necessary, the tenants listed in the rental of ca.1105 probably include some of the original settlers, some of their widows, and some of their progeny. Keeping in mind that surnames, as fixed and hereditary differentiators, were only just beginning to appear at the time the rental was compiled (we should more strictly talk of by-names at this period), the names of the Battle tenants suggest a number of conclusions about the local population. The bulk of that population was English; 72% of the names were identified by Searle as Anglo-Saxon. Another 17% are potentially either Anglo-Saxon or Norman, given that after the Conquest some Anglo-Saxon families were finding it politic to give their children baptismal names associated with the ruling class, as exemplified by Robert son of Siflet (or Sigeflaed in its Anglo-Saxon form, a matronymic), and a certain amount of intermarriage and cultural fusion between Saxons and Normans was likely taking place. Distinctive but uncommon Norman names, less likely to have been adopted by English families, were possessed by 11% of the residents. This supports the statement by the chronicler that settlers originated both from within England and, in fewer cases, from overseas – the latter perhaps including both offspring of followers of the Conqueror, and more recent migrants into a Norman-controlled country.

However, only five tenants had surnames indicative of their place of origin, three being localities over which the abbey had lordship, one just possibly further afield in Hampshire, and the fifth some location in France; it would be surprising if the majority of the immigrants were not drawn from south-east England. Nor were a large number of the tenants distinguished by patronymics; having a parental name appended to the baptismal name might have been meaningful in the case of tenants born to families in the area, but far less so for immigrants from further afield. A modest, out-of-the-way place like Battle was not likely to draw many offspring of fathers who had gained widespread fame for one reason or another, just as its catchment field for ambitious migrants could not expect to compare to those of established cities, or still less that great magnet, London.

While quite a few of the tenants are identified only by their forenames, a number are differentiated through nicknames and still more through their occupations. Though the abbey would have wanted some manual labourers among settlers in the town, still more it would have welcomed men who brought more specialized craft, trade, or other skills which could respond to practical needs of the monastic and burgess communities. Thus we find several makers and menders of shoes – the article of clothing most susceptible to wear and tear – a couple of craftsmen involved in the production of other clothing, some blacksmiths and carpenters, various tenders of livestock, and several individuals active in victualling trades: cooks and bakers, and the local miller. This kind of mix is also evidenced at the monastic borough of Evesham, where a rental dating about a century later than that of Battle shows "weavers, fullers, carpenters, smiths and a parchment maker ... bakers, cooks, fishmongers, vintners and millers." [ R.H. Hilton, "The Small Town and Urbanisation – Evesham in the Middle Ages," Midland History, vol.7 (1982), p.2]. And again at Bury St. Edmunds where, during the decades following the Conquest, we see settling beside the abbey shoemakers, clothiers, bakers, brewers, cooks, washerwomen, and porters, who provide the monks with their services. In addition, Battle's tenants encompassed a number of occupations more exclusively tied to the consumer group of the abbey: bell-founder, sacristans, a steward, and probably also the goldsmith and the gardener.

Most of the identified craftsmen were English, but the ethnic group with the largest proportion of craftsmen was the Anglo-Normans; few were pure Norman. Middleborough is the neighbourhood with the strongest commercial flavour. Such conclusions can only be impressionistic, for the rental's purpose was not to identify the occupations of residents, and needed to do so mostly to clarify which townsperson was being referred to, in distinction from others (whether householders or other members of a household) of the same forename. It would be dangerous to assume that even most of those with whom no occupational or locative surname is associated were agricultural or unskilled manual labourers. At the very least the abbey would surely have taken on immigrant tenants only if they seemed capable, and had some prospect, of earning a living that would enable them to pay their rent.

Tenants with Anglo-Saxon names are distributed evenly through the neighbourhoods of Bremblegh, Middleborough and Sandlake, while those with Norman names are slightly more numerous in Middleborough but few in Bremblegh – none of the uncommon Norman names are found there. This, together with the fact that only two Bremblegh residents have occupational identifiers (the pig-keeper and a cook) would support the interpretation of Bremblegh as an area of unskilled, possibly agricultural, labourers – a group into which we would not expect Normans to intermarry and which would be less inclined to integrate through the adoption of Norman forenames. Tenants with the unusual Norman names tend to cluster in a particular part of the town in front of the abbey: most on the south-east side of the parish church, a few on the north-west side, and one by the abbey gate – this Reinbert de Beche being the single resident whose surname indicates a possible link to a Norman knightly family; none live in what could be considered the most commercial section of town, the stretch of High Street approaching the livestock market. Normans are only thinly scattered in Sandlake, except for one cluster which includes the parish priest and one of the abbey sacristans. Searle suggested that Sandlake represents less a Norman quarter than a neighbourhood of abbey servants and administrators, some perhaps recruited overseas. Whether these seeming differences in neighbourhood character were part of the abbey's plan for the town, effected through messuage allocations, we cannot know, but it is certainly conceivable. I am inclined to suspect that Searle underestimated the Norman character of Sandlake, and that Claverham may represent the original focus for settlement, beginning with the abbey builders, with Sandlake an area of expansion as more immigrants were brought in, including those from abroad, in part to assume functions necessary after the abbey was operational.

Nevertheless, Sandlake should certainly not be thought of as a Norman enclave within the town. It may be because Battle was an entirely new foundation that there was no separate Norman quarter there, such as was established in existing towns like Norwich, Northampton, Nottingham and others that the new overlords needed to garrison, supply, and hold. The strategically insignificant and purely ecclesiastical foundation of Battle was too small a community to need or support separate French and English boroughs, each with their own customs and administrative institutions. There English and Normans lived more, if not wholly, side-by-side and some of the Anglo-Norman names may point to an integration process already underway.

Nor, Searle's analysis led her to conclude, do the tenurial obligations recorded in the rental suggest that any favouritism was shown the Norman tenants. Residents were treated more or less equally, as burgesses. The labour services due are uniform for most tenants. The standard landgable rent appears to have been 7d. per annum, which is in line with many other towns (e.g. Winchester), and reflective of the 5d. to 6d. that has been estimated as the average burgage rent reported in Domesday for the pre-Conquest period, although that average belies the wide range of rents that are actually evidenced in the post-Conquest times, dependent on factors such as the period when a borough was created and a fixed burgage rent put in place. So too it is at Battle, where the rents range from 5d. to 14d. Reasons for these variations may include the size, location, or quality of the plots, as can be seen as a determinative factor at New Winchelsea; although it is less clear at Battle whether such matters were taken into account, rents of properties closer to the livestock market are more variable, and those on the edges of town a little below the average. Post-foundation subdivision or amalgamation of plots is less evident as a factor at Battle; some of the deviations from 7d. are explained in the rental as additional land being held, while tenants of two adjacent plots were charged under double the rent. That two of the bakers were charged higher rents might possibly be explained by them having land sufficient for bake-ovens as well as house, while the third baker worked at the abbey's oven.

Some exceptions to the rule have been made by the abbey. The beadle and his neighbour Reinbert de Beche are not expected to provide labour services in person, but must still find stand-ins. Gilbert the foreigner and his neighbour Eluric of Dengemarsh owed neither rent nor service, these being a case of tenure by serjeanty. The steward of the abbey lands owed neither rent nor services, beyond those associated with his office. Searle speculated that the beadle and the steward were offered these favourable terms specifically in order to recruit men with their administrative capabilities. The other exception – Golding, who held two adjacent messuages, but only owes labour services on one – is harder to explain; it is not evident that other holders of pairs of plots owed twice as much labour, but if such service was the individual obligation of each tenant, rather than calculated per property, why did the rental compiler choose to elaborate only in the case of Golding?

A few years after Professor Searle's detailed study of Battle a second analysis of the names of the rental tenants, finer and more scientific, was made by Cecily Clark, although not extended into the type of interpretive assessment offered by Searle. She focused on a hundred male baptismal names and on differentiating insular names from names of continental derivation. Ms. Clark's categories were different from those used by Dr. Searle and so the two sets of findings are not directly comparable; Clark was also more conscious of the problems involved in linguistic analysis and identifying the origins of name-forms (onomastics). The conclusions reached by the two scholars were not, however, radically different, and both support the brief statement of the chronicler about the sources of recruited settlers. Clark agreed that most householders were not only English, but native to East Sussex, yet considered that 40% of the names represent continental forms. This would include those resulting from the incipient fashion of the English adopting names brought over by their conquerors and from the process of merger between the French and English cultures. She thus played up a little the significance of immigrants from across the Channel, pointing out that such immigration in the wake of the Conquest is evidenced in other twelfth-century surveys to have survived from English towns, and that its effects could expect to be felt particularly in southern England; furthermore, Battle had links with the continent not only through the French monks King William brought across to form the nucleus of Battle's monastic community, but also through his importation of building stone from Normandy, with which could have come workmen who stayed to help with abbey construction and eventually took up residence.

The burgess community of Battle ca.1105 – like most other boroughs of the same period – had no charter of liberties from its ecclesiastical overlord and no formal institutions of self-government; unlike most, it never acquired such during the Middle Ages. It was subject to the administration of its seigneurial lord, and the abbey had no interest in, nor can we imagine it intended in its foundation plans, a borough that would head off in independent directions. There are few signs of any communal organization, formal or informal, that might have pursued self-determination through a firma burgi arrangement. Monastic boroughs typically found their lords unwilling to concede greater powers of autonomy, in contrast to boroughs held by the king or other lay lords, who favoured and fostered controlled developments that would make their towns either more lucrative or more cost-efficient. The limited liberties Battle's residents possessed through burgess status were held provisionally – though the same was, strictly speaking, true of other urban communities – and had to be renewed through a fixed lump-sum payment when any new abbot was installed. Those liberties are not directly specified but included burgage tenure (the fixed rent and rights of alienation of their freeholds) and exemption from any labour services other than those specified in the rental. They most probably included the right to conduct trade from their homes or in the weekly market without payment of any fees or tolls to the abbey and the freedom from toll elsewhere that the abbey had allegedly been granted for itself and its tenants; although we may doubt that any of the burgesses were doing a great deal of trading far afield, the abbey tenants' exemption was recorded in a ldeclaration at Fordwich of the scope of its toll-collecting rights.

Judicial jurisdiction was in the hands of the abbey, with its steward presiding in the abbey's court, which served not only the town but the rural tenants of the banlieu, at sessions that took place roughly once every three weeks, while twice a year larger sessions (called lawdays) were held to administer view of frankpledge and leet jurisdiction. Cases involving townspeople were distinguished from those involving residents of the rural banlieu to an extent, but the separation of these matters in court sessions was not rigid. From 1101 the court had jurisdiction over all civil cases initiated by a plaintiff, whether under common law or local custom; some of those customs were universal to the banlieu while others were exclusive to the borough, the latter including those governing market offences. Many of the customs likely concerned tenurial rights; that this was one of the prime, and probably one of the earliest, concerns of borough custom is evidenced by the earliest chapters of the custumals of Ipswich and Maldon. It was to the benefit of the landlord and of the burgess tenants – except in the eyes of those hoping to evade the fees due the abbey – for property transfers to take place in the public context court sessions provided, where the community of suitors to the court – that is, other householders – could act as witnesses to such transactions, giving them more security. From the thirteenth century written charters were used to convey property, but these charters generally were, or purported to be, records of transfers enacted in court and witnessed by suitors. When court rolls began to be kept, from about 1245, they registered – in cases where the new tenant would hold directly of the abbey – those aspects of transfers of greatest interest to the abbey: not just identifying the property and its new tenant, but also the type of transfer, and the terms (including rent) under which the property was held of the abbey.

The beadle who appears in Battle's ca.1105 rental – his English identity perhaps reflecting a recognition that the community was predominantly English in character – would have been appointed by the abbey, to collect court fines and rents, and can hardly be considered a leader of the burgesses, although he enforced borough customs and, later, by-laws formulated by the community through the court (much as was done at Maldon). Although to an extent the court was a community institution, for it upheld the rights of members of the community, the only vehicle for communality at the beginning of the twelfth century were the two gilds mentioned as existing in the town, each with its own hall, representing the primary districts of Claverham and Sandlake; a third gildhall located outside of town served the inhabitants of the extra-urban banlieu. That the Sandlake gild was dedicated to St. Martin reinforces the idea of a neighbourhood linked to the monks by ethnicity and dedication to the abbey. These were, from one perspective, drinking-gilds, social more than political or economic in function; membership may have been restricted to the more prosperous residents of each district, who were expected to contribute to the festive gatherings, though we should perhaps rather see them as occasions for communal bonding. However, with their roots in the Anglo-Saxon gild meetings, where tithing-men met to address peace-keeping and other communal concerns, concluding with a shared drink to assure social harmony, they do represent a form of communal organization, in which the more important members played a leading role. There is some intimation that Battle's gilds had disciplinary authority over its members, but the circumstances to which this apply are not clarified by the chronicler. The abbot was an ex officio member of the gilds, although he did not personally participate in the drinking component of gatherings (his steward perhaps standing in on these occasions); this would have enabled him to keep in touch with public opinion and to give the more prominent burgesses an opportunity to express any concerns to him in a non-confrontational setting. We must assume that meetings facilitated discussion of local issues and exchanges of information and opinions, and we might infer that they were for a kind of policing and for collective support of funeral services for members. That the chronicler does not mention such activities only reflects the fact that his interest in gild customs is primarily in ways they bolster, or otherwise directly impact, abbey resources; the same might be said of his scant coverage of local customary law – indeed there cannot have been much such law in so young a community – and its administration.

We could cautiously categorize the Battle portrayed in the rental of ca.1105 as a 'primitive' borough. This descriptor is not intended to be derogatory but to denote a town in its initial stage of development: a simple linear plan focused on a single highway (the present-day High Street and Upper/Lower Lake road), a small population, a rudimentary economy, a degree of occupational heterogeneity whose scope did not evidently extend beyond local needs (though is sufficient to warrant classing Battle as a town), and under-developed physical and administrative infrastructures. Historians might well be tempted to label Battle as proto-urban or even pseudo-urban; yet the founders clearly envisaged it as a borough – the burgage tenure being an almost definitive characteristic; but modern scholars' definition of a town, though still somewhat nebulous, is more rigorous than any that might be posited for the wave of founders of new towns in the Norman-Angevin period, they having utility and benefit in mind rather than scientific categorization. We should also remember that the rental shows a young community only a few decades following the Conquest and almost a century before the men of larger and longer-established Ipswich had become sufficiently self-confident – one is almost tempted to say enlightened, but self-interested would be just as accurate, though neither term, embodying assumptions hard to support from concrete evidence, is quite appropriate – to make the transition to the status of a self-governing borough.

At this period the burgesses of Battle may by-and-large have been satisfied with the life they had, not so greatly distinguished from their agricultural neighbours. The abbey was not an oppressive overlord; beyond the established tenurial services – whether services tied to the individual or to the property held – it might call on them at times of particular need for voluntary contribution of additional time and labour, but allowed that some might be unable to help out. Had the abbot proven a harsh lord, the burgesses were free men and could move elsewhere – which would not have benefited the abbey. There must have been a sense of communality that incorporated both the abbey and the town, a recognition of mutual dependence. So that if the meadow needed extra work to gather the hay, or the mill extra work to keep in repair, it was as much to the benefit of the burgesses – who relied on the mill for flour, and needed hay to keep their livestock alive through the winter – as to that of the abbey. The same might be said of the making of malt, for it was in the townpeople's interest to assure that the abbey did not run short of this vital drink, just as it was in the abbey's interest for the monks to intercede with God through prayers for the health and prosperity of their tenants. The limitation on tenurial labour obligations, combined with the fixed burgage rent – which remained at the same level into the thirteenth century – and the personal freedoms that burgess status endowed were satisfactorily successful as incentives to attract and retain settlers. By the thirteenth century the mill repair and malt-making had disappeared from abbey requirements of the burgesses.

As far as we can see, the era that produced the earliest rental of the burgages was a less complicated time, before, in many boroughs, a handful of the more influential burgesses, ambitious or visionary – in terms of taking more control over matters that potentially could bring greater prosperity in a commercializing society – sought to lead the community in pursuit of self-government, whether through negotiation or (as often in the case of monastic boroughs) conflict. Like other monastic seigneurs, Battle Abbey was disinclined to accord its burgesses too much independence, not wishing to jeopardize its grip on the revenues that derived from lordship. In a number of other monastic towns, such as Bury St. Edmunds, Cirencester and Reading, this resulted in a power struggle between the two sides. That this was not conspicuously the case at Battle Eleanor Searle attributed to "an ultimate convergence of interest, brought about by the ability to reason together in amity." ["'Inter Amicos': The Abbey, Town and Early Charters of Battle," Anglo-Norman Studies, vol.13 (1991), p.4] But it is also testimony to the fact that the town was neither well-positioned nor well-endowed to find an advantageous niche in the economy of the nation or even the region, which might have fuelled the ambitions of those townsmen best positioned to advance their own socio-economic status by acquiring more control over local affairs. Rather, the borough community of Battle simply served the purpose for which it had been created, to furnish the abbey with labour, goods and services. In the thinking behind the foundation we can see some parallels with the transformation of tiny Cromford, over six hundred years later, into a bustling community – provided by the founder with housing, a church, social facilities, and a licensed market – to service Arkwright's cotton factory.

Battle's burgesses never obtained, and perhaps rarely felt any great need for, one of those seigneurial charters of liberties that were markers of at least certain aspects of urban development, nor is there any sign of a merchant gild having evolved as a focus for communal ambition and collective action; such things may have been beneficial particularly to larger urban communities with potential for a more competitive role in the national economy and with the internal competition that stemmed from a more pronounced social stratification, but they were not a sine qua non in defining what was a town. Despite those lacks, Battle developed in other regards; not, it seems, as a result of political conflict between opposing interests of abbatial overlord and burgesses, giving rise to legalistic contracts or judicial decisions differentiating the rights of both sides, but through an understanding of their interdependence, an appreciation by each of the other's needs and how these could be met through solutions mutually beneficial, or at least livable.

A later rental, dating from the late 1230s or 1240s – a period of considerable geographic mobility, as many villagers sought a better life in towns, and even townsmen might change their home-base to gain economic advantage – shows that further population expansion, perhaps combined with some relocation within the town, had resulted in the area of settlement extending along the previously unsettled right-hand branch off the road, where it forked at the north-west end of town. The increase in area and population was sufficient to warrant this suburb being made a third administrative district of the town, shortly to be known as Mountjoy. At some point during the decades that followed, the abbey's court-house, equipped with a gaol, was relocated to the fork, facing what was by now the main marketplace. Sandlake also saw expansion.

The newcomers continued to include immigrants from Normandy and Flanders, as well as Englishmen from as far afield as Lincoln, London, and Canterbury. Some were allocated by the abbey new plots of land, smaller than those of the initial layout, and so became its tenants and presumably burgesses on a par with the originals. Others, who rented or acquired from burgesses parts of the original messuages, or who lodged with householders, were required to pay an annual fee for the right to remain and share in the privileges of the borough community; they also had to find two guarantors of their good behaviour. They do not seem to have been considered burgesses, but were described as resident non-tenants; they were probably more comparable to the inferiores non burgenses of Lynn, who could buy annual licences to trade, than the foreign burgesses of Ipswich.

In the latter half of the thirteenth century this expansionist policy was replaced by one of intensification within the existing settled area; the monks were perhaps concerned that their house not become entirely encircled by town, to the loss of agricultural land. It was a question of balance. Boundary crosses were set up at three points on the roads into town, to show the new town limits and perhaps act as toll collection points. The rear boundaries of at least the High Street messuages seem to have been defined, probably from the outset, by a line of ditches, in which have been found pottery sherds dating from the Norman period to mid-fourteenth century.

By the close of the thirteenth century, with demand for land exceeding supply and the abbey adequately furnished with retailers and craftsmen, the monks felt able to demand higher rents for the new plots they allocated. A rental of 1367 identifies 207 messuages with residences (plus a few plots not built on), most in occupation notwithstanding the recent bouts of plague; Middleborough had become as congested as most other boroughs of the period and settlement had continued to expand at either end of the town, though at the south-east end it was still relatively low density. While the epidemics doubtless had a drastic effect on population in the crowded town, it would be offset by other factors, such as relocation of residents from coastal settlements, moving inland to escape both French raiders and the rising costs of upgrading local defences. The mortality rate also fuelled an existing trend whereby some of the more prosperous, or simply surviving, burgesses acquired – whether through purchase, marriage, or inheritance – more than one town property, and/or land elsewhere in the banlieu, that surplus to their living needs being a form of relatively safe financial investment providing regular income from rents and a source of capital should need arise to sell; rent charges themselves (other than those due the abbey) were bought and sold, independently of the properties from which they issued. All this was typical of urban England's inflating real estate market of the pre-plague period, and could be considered a form of commercial enterprise. Residents who served the abbey in some official capacity are prominent among such investors, and the abbey itself also came to engage in the practice.

The abbey too was prospering in the pre-plague period, enabling it to undertake much rebuilding, in part to bolster its defensive capabilities in the context of the war with France. But the number of monks gradually declined during and after the era of epidemics, which must have reduced the amount of business the abbey would put the way of the townspeople, and depopulation in the town itself is evidenced in the late fourteenth century. Searle had the impression of a more profound change in Battle society; it had become

"a community that has lost touch with a traditional concept of itself; whose juries cannot testify as to the customs among them, and whose community leaders rouse no opposition at innovations introduced by the lord. The old solidarity, in which what was done to one was done to all, had ceased to be valued."
[Lordship and Community, p.361]

Although some contraction of the outlying settled areas (notably Mountjoy) continued in the fifteenth century, Battle had by now become a modest market town of some significance in this region of Sussex. Population and prosperity had re-stabilized, but with a different equilibrium. Some market stalls were being replaced by, or abandoned in favour of, home-based shops. Around the close of the Middle Ages the official market was transferred (or restored?) to the abbey green, much of the marketplace at the fork having been gradually lost to encroachment, notably to the permanent shops; market activities there would cease entirely in the early sixteenth century and the court-house would follow the market back to the abbey outskirts a little later. But by then the Dissolution of the monasteries had removed the mainstay of the local economy.



The editor (who was not the transcriber of the original text, that being Henry Petrie of the Record Commission), does not self-identify, but is named by Eleanor Searle, ed. The Chronicle of Battle Abbey, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980, p.29.. I have cross-checked the Chronicon transcription against that made by Professor Searle, and they are essentially in accord. I have retained the lineated format of the Chronicon, rather than the more accurate but less easy to read compacted format in Searle, and, again for legibility, have converted the numbering assigned to the messuages from Roman to Arabic numerals.

More literally, summoned or invited. The chronicle proper, by a different author, reiterated or summarized elements of the earlier text. With regard to the foundation of the town he has nothing extra or different to say, except to specify that it was the responsibility of the settlers to build houses for themselves on the plots assigned them, while the lengthy rental is cursorily summarized [Chronicon p.28] as: "these men have been, since that time, accustomed to provide various services to the church, though in other respects they are free." Services should here be understood as including payment of rents.

"parts overseas"
Searle is likely correct in thinking that this really meant from across the English Channel.

"still be seen today"
It is hard to believe that, a half-century after the compilation of the rental, the local population had not expanded at least a little, although an increase may well have been handled by extending the area of settlement along the existing main road, rather than through subdivision of messuages. Perhaps the chronicler had no more up-to-date rental at hand, however. It may be noted that Battle's medieval topography was relatively little disturbed by post-medieval developments (until modern times); for the Claverham district most properties listed in ca.1105 correspond to burgage plots still surviving today or known from post-medieval records, though this is less true for Sandlake.

"first messuage"
This may have been the house that, by the 1150s, was in the hands of Sir Peter de Criol, who held the nearby manor of Ashburnham; the surname derives from a place in Normandy and is probably not associated with the Crull found in the rental.

"the hostel"
This reference appears to be a clarificatory interpolation by the chronicler copying the rental into his account, since the pilgrim hospital is stated in the chronicle as being the creation of a later abbot (post-1175). We cannot rule out, however, the possibly that what the chronicle records is a rebuilding of an expanded facility that previously existed in more modest form.

"Reinbert de Beche"
A Reinbert "servant of the abbot" was among Battle tenants who witnessed a charter of 1107-24 granting land to the abbey. In the 1150s Hugh de Beche was tenant of this house. This important local family held land at Beche, a farmstead of the banlieu which was considered to have the status almost of a manor. Beche and Criol were described in the chronicle as men of prudence, loyal to the abbey, and apparently were its trusted advisors. Described as men of the borough, their town houses presumably gave them burgess status, although whether they belonged to either of the social gilds is unknown.

A horse-load, roughly eight bushels.

Clark suggests this may have been the copyist's misreading of a Latinized form of a Middle English term for dwarf, thus making it a nickname referring to the owner's size.

Clark suggests a Latinization of a French word meaning foot-soldier.

A purgatoris is one who purges, scours, or cleans things. This might refer to a variety of occupations, such as abbey dish-washer, cleaning out latrines, perhaps the work of cleaning up metals later performed by a furbisher, or even the refining of ores.

As one who sews, sutor could refer to a hosier, glover, or tailor. However, in a modest-sized community of this period, it most likely meant a repairer of footwear.

A dispensator can mean a bursar, but the dispensing of monastery money was usually handled by a monk; it might possibly mean a purchasing agent. Alternatively, a steward of the household – that is, the non-ecclesiastical moveables of the abbey. Or again – perhaps more likely in this case – a keeper of the pantry, buttery, or other storerooms where foodstuffs and food preparation equipment were kept; in other words, something similar to a butler. If a servant of the monastery, as seems likely, his function was not so important as to warrant exempting him from the incidents of burgage tenure.

"parish church"
This stood, or came to stand, on what would have been plot 32 in the rental, and the chronicler evidently updated the original entry in the rental. As the church would not have owed rent or labour, there would have been little point including its site in the numerical sequence of the rental if it were in existence at the time of compilation; and even if so, it did not initially have the status of a parish church. When the rental was compiled, plot 32 must then have been, depending on the original town planners' intentions, either an unallocated plot – just possibly even the initial site of the market – or more likely one that had earlier been allocated and built on, but subsequently had been taken back into abbey hands (with some kind of compensation for the tenant) to make way for the church. It is plausible enough that part of the original plan would be to erect, in due course, once the settler recruitment plan was proving successful, a place of worship for the townspeople, and a site across the road from the abbey precinct wall, not far from the abbey gateway, would have allowed the abbot to keep a watchful eye over the institution. Yet the author of the chronicle proper makes it sound more like an after-thought, indicating that in the early years the townspeople had attended services in the abbey's own church, which proved a disturbance to the monastic life. For this reason, the chronicler claimed, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary had been put up outside the abbey precinct. Conceivably the nuisance of occasionally boisterous market activities immediately outside the abbey, but only gradually becoming unpalatable, would have been what prompted relocation of the marketplace to the farther end of town; the imported monks may not have anticipated the problem since their mother-house was some distance outside of Tours. The chapel is known to have been newly-built in the early years of abbot Ralph (1107-24), and pains were taken to assure it was free from episcopal intervention and to acquire parochial status for it as quickly as possible.

Here dapifer means a steward in terms of an administrator of abbey lands, and the probable presiding officer of the court for abbey tenants.

Possibly from an Old English term for stirrup. Probably a nickname, though it might be an occupational name.

"the other stretch"
This was the part where the ridge forked and the road – or at least that branch of the road where building plots had been laid out – continued past the livestock market. By 1240 population growth had necessitated settlement along the other branch, which became a third administrative district of the town, and a court-house was positioned at the fork, along with the marketplace.

"Benwold Gest"
Clark indicates that the surname derives from an Old English term for a stranger, and the forename is likely a miscopying of Beornwold.

A patronymic.

This should be understood as an indicator of status rather than a military role, although with possible occupational implications; however, we cannot exclude the possibility it be an inherited status or even applied as a nickname.

Possibly the source of the name Bremblegh, which Searle originally suspected as the later name of this neighbourhood, though by the time she came to publish her translation of the chronicle, she seems to have been less confident of that conjecture, noting only that the name was applied to at least a string of cottages on one side of the road. However, in her last paper published, "'Inter Amicos': The Abbey, Town and Early Charters of Battle," Anglo-Norman Studies, vol.13 (1990), pp.1-14, she still talked of a suburb of that name.

"east side"
That is, Sandlake plots on the opposite side of the street to the abbey.

"the other part"
This was the point from where the road turned south towards Hastings.

According to Clark, may be connected with a Middle English term for curly-haired. But see note above.

If this interpretation is correct, Sevugel may, by extension, have been involved in manufacturing products from the reeds – used for roofing, floor covering, hats, baskets and other domestic purposes. It is less likely in this period and context that cannarius might mean canvas-maker. Clark, however, suspected it a Latinization of a term found in Middle English meaning potter.

Bathurst was a location just within the boundary of the banlieu.

This has the form of an occupational descriptor, although it is capitalized as if a surname. The derivation of the term from genesta, meaning broom, suggests holders of the name might have been dyers or simply cultivators of the species that provides a yellow dye. Searle felt it could also have been a nickname brought across by French settlers.

Another cordwainer, but the capitalization and the rendering in French, as opposed to the Latin form in no.6, suggests that this was either a surname not necessarily representative of occupation, or an occupation performed by Eluric before his migration to Battle.

Meaning brewer, but again it is not clear if this is an occupational descriptor or a surname.

"bread and something"
This was not remuneration for the labour (which, as an obligation, went unremunerated), but provision of a midday meal, typically provided to labourers along with wages. The companagium might refer to something to add flavour to the bread, such as condiment or (cottage) cheese, but just as likely refers to something to wash it down with, usually ale.

"the discretion"
Conviction placed the offender at the mercy (misericordia) of the court – that is, subject to an amercement – and "gage or pledge" had to be found by the convicted party to assure payment of whatever pecuniary punishment would be subsequently assessed by the affeerors of the court, although the judge had the discretion to reduce the fine in certain cases, based on the circumstances of the convicted party. The fifty shillings stated here as customary are probably considered to represent the maximum amount that a burgess (or perhaps any man) could be fined to avoid his ruination, although it is not clear whether law or local custom specified such maximums (Becket alleged, according to his biographer, that Kentish custom set forty shillings as maximum), and the matter had to be addressed in principle in Magna Carta (clause 20).

"one hundred"
This amount is a later emendation of the text, perhaps made when John of Whatlington became abbot in 1309, the earlier (and presumably lower – Searle suspected forty shillings) amount having been erased and written over.

This name persisted throughout the medieval period. It and the other lands identified in this paragraph must have lain behind Sandlake's urban messuages on the abbey side of the road, and suggest that the abbey infirmary was cautiously isolated from both the main precinct and the town proper.

Probably a stone-quarry excavated during construction of the abbey; the fish-pond may have originated as another quarry. There are still today a number of ponds on that side of the abbey. These features perhaps provide a clue to the derivation of 'Sandlake'. The main quarry was expanded in the second half of the thirteenth century, so that several nearby houses were taken down, their residents perhaps being relocated to the expanding north-west end of the town. The quarry was built over in the latter half of the fifteenth century.

"Eleanor Searle"
Much of the information in the Discussion section and Notes is taken from Professor Searle's Lordship and Community: Battle Abbey and its banlieu 1066-1538, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1974.

Searle's opinion as to date changed over the course of the years she spent studying Battle. She initially favoured a date closer to 1110, partly on the belief that the hostel, mentioned in relation to the first messuage in the rental, was built by Abbot Ralph (1107-24); but as the date of the hostel was pushed back it became likely the reference was a later interpolation. By the time her edition of the Battle chronicle was published she felt more comfortable with 1107 as the approximate date, but towards the end of her life favoured 1105, apparently on the grounds that the church must have been going up around that time. Clark, although having seen a draft of Searle's edition of the chronicle, did not pick up on the change and adopted 1110 as the date (for her purposes a difference of a year or two being of small consequence). It may be noted that from 1102 to 1107 the abbacy was vacant and the abbey in the king's hand, administered by his warden; it is not improbable that, with the profits of the banlieu then going to the king, the warden would have commissioned a rental.

The geological formation is primarily clay; water access is poor, and the nearest river, the Brede, was scarcely navigable even for boats of modest size. The ridge was crossed by a track from prehistoric or Roman times, but there is little evidence of any settlement atop it in those periods. Nor has the limited archaeology undertaken in the town and its environs produced any evidence of settlement in Anglo-Saxon times. The monks brought over from the wealthy and renowned Marmoutier Abbey (whose founder was St. Martin, a fourth-century Bishop of Tours), to found that at Battle initially began building further west, but were ordered by William to refocus their efforts around the spot at which King Harold was believed to have fallen.

"forged documentation"
This does not preclude it encapsulating at least some authentic oral tradition about privileges accorded by the Conqueror. Searle [Lordship and Community, pp.198-200] argued that he would have wanted his foundation to have sufficient jurisdictional independence within the banlieu for it to be protected from the interference or control of any lord or authority short of the king himself, although even in the latter case the Crown waived its right to taxation, tolls, and military service. It is unlikely, however, to have excluded the power of Crown officials to try cases involving serious crimes committed in the banlieu, with the exception that the abbot could deal with thieves of indisputable guilt.

The chronicler proper, who probably had access to forged documentation (without necessarily knowing its inauthenticity), briefly reports that William I granted the abbey a Sunday market in the town. If William's grant is genuine, Battle's would be one of the earliest markets to be licensed by the Norman regime, and William's particular interest in the abbey makes the grant plausible.

"local production"
Little archaeology has been conducted at Battle, outside of the abbey itself, but excavation of a site on the edge of the livestock marketplace produced pottery finds. These provisionally suggest most pottery was locally made, but some came – possibly through market trading – from elsewhere in Sussex and maybe even from Surrey, with only a very small amount of French imports (rare in the Weald generally), although this isolated assemblage may only reflect a higher-status household. [Richard James, "Excavations at the Jenner and Simpson Mill site, Mount Street, Battle, East Sussex," Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol.146 (2008). p.166.]

"actually resident"
It is possible of course that some of the tenants had sub-rented to others and themselves lived elsewhere, but for a small town with its initial burgesses of modest means (unlikely to hold investment properties), this does not seem highly probable – certainly not so probable as to affect significantly the impressions obtained from statistical aggregates. Quite a few of the surnames in the ca.1105 rental are found in later documentation from Battle.

"different persons"
Two of the three Sevugels are explicitly differentiated by the compiler, possibly to distinguish them from the third Sevugel, who is given no by-name; the same can be said of the two Lamberts, and of the pair of Godwins (as well as the pair of Roberts) who hold adjoining properties. While we cannot be absolutely certain that such recurring names, as well as the two Emmas, do not represent the same individuals, the likelihood of any resident holding two properties in such a minor town, particularly at this early date in its development, is fairly low.

Perhaps also indicated in the cases of Elfwin Turpin and Godwin Gisard, who have Anglo-Saxon forenames but Norman patronymics.

"place of origin:"
This lack of information might seem particularly surprising in regard to immigrants from abroad, but it reflects more on the history of surname development than on the character of the Battle community. Locative differentiators are only slightly more in evidence in the contemporaneous rental at Winchester, at least in regard to the property-holders of the city centre. Within a century or so locatives would become a much more common form of surname.

"has been estimated"
Morley de Wolf Hemmeon, Burgage Tenure in Medieval England, Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1914, p.160.

"double the rent"
Conceivably, these were cases where a tenant had recently taken on an adjacent property for expansion or investment purposes, while other high rents that seem to be for single plots might represent amalgamations that had taken place much earlier. However, it seems more likely they were simply larger plots from the time of the initial layout, intended for settlers who, for varying reasons, needed or could afford them. Town planners seem to have recognized the desirability to provide for some variation in plot size, as well as to make the plots large enough to provide not only for a house but also for outbuildings (such as a malthouse), land for growing foodstuffs for domestic use, and/or space for keeping a few livestock. Street frontage of the plots was about 35-40 feet and the depth even greater. This was considerably bigger than the plots laid out at New Winchelsea, where a larger population, more dependent on the sea for their living, had to be accommodated from the outset.

That is by some service performed (voluntarily) for the abbey. While such services were often military or agricultural, neither appears to be the case here. The tithes that Gilbert owed were from four acres outside the town which, like the urban plot, were held for messenger services, using his own horse, to centres of royal and archiepiscopal authority when required during the year. Eluric's service was to organize the tenants of his land at Dungeness marsh to perform labour services due them – possibly in abbey fields, but more likely on maintenance of dikes and ditches in their district.

"Cecily Clark"
"Battle ca. 1110: an anthroponymist looks at an Anglo-Norman new town." Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies, vol.2 (1980), pp.21-41

That is, names present in England prior to the Conquest, being either Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian.

Gallicized Germanic names, Scandinavian names used by the Normandy Vikings, names taken from Christian saints or Biblical characters (little favoured by Anglo-Saxons, and only starting to become common in England in the latter half of the twelfth century), and some minor categories such as Flemish and Breton – the latter group provided a number of Duke William's companions during his invasion.

"problems involved"
There are so many variants, ambiguities (e.g. whether some of the by-names are indicative of occupation or parentage or are simply nicknames), and uncertainties, that findings cannot be conclusive. Sometimes we can be blinded by science. Use of name evidence to suggest geographical origins is at best impressionistic. The names in the Battle rental are filtered through the interpretation and orthography of a monk whose own identity and cultural affiliation are unknown. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that a name whose derivation can be traced to continental sources does not point to a recent immigrant who has come for the purpose of settling in Battle; these may be individuals (or their issue) who came with, after, or even (in rare cases) before the Conquest and lived elsewhere in the south-east before moving to Battle. Note that only one of the three Gilberts in the Battle rental is identified as a foreigner, even though the baptismal name is of continental derivation.

"abbey's court"
It is not certain where this court convened at the time the first rental was produced. A couple of years earlier an important case involving some southern barons was heard in the abbey church; while this may have been an exceptional situation, the number of tenants owing suit to the court would have necessitated a large meeting space for at least the biannual sessions when all suitors were required to be in attendance.

"circumstances to which this apply"
The fines that could be levied at the gild drinkings might only have applied to offences that occurred on those occasions.

"tenurial services"
In contrast with the few demands on the burgesses (which was not necessarily for personal service, as substitutes could be sent), tenants of rural manors belonging to the abbey were burdened with obligations such as ploughing and seeding, reaping, threshing and winnowing, mowing hay, carting of hay to and manure from the abbey, transportation of grain, victuals and fuel to the abbey, ditch-digging, construction or relocation of livestock pens, and sheep-shearing. Burgesses were typically free of such duties. Those of Battle were also free of the trinoda necessitatis, through royal grant to the abbey.

"personal freedoms"
These related principally to flexibility in owning and disposing of property, both real and moveable. Based on evidence from thirteenth century documents, householders were secure in the tenure of their messuages, except in rare cases where they were convicted of a felony or allowed the property to fall into ruin; or when, more commonly, they tried to evade the modest one shilling fee for licence to sell them – on such occasions the abbey usually levied a fine rather than confiscated the property. Property buyers had to pay a similar entry fee to the abbey. There was no fee for the heir of a burgess to enter into his inheritance; an oath to the landlord was the only customary requirement. A widow could (again without fee) continue to hold a half-share of her late husband's messuage for her lifetime; if there were no heirs she could raise money by selling the reversion of the property. If the widow remarried and died without heirs, however, her husband (who had to pay the one shilling entry fee) could not inherit. Men were not prevented from giving, during their lifetime, some of their property to their children, and may have been inclined to do so, since local custom prescribed that the heir was the youngest son (ultimogeniture), which would often leave the widow as guardian, effectively giving her full control of property (excluding alienation of it) until the heir reached the age of majority, at fifteen. If there were no obvious heir an inquisition might be required to assess the rights of any other claimant, failing which the property was taken back into abbey hands.

"niche in the economy"
Although in the early twelfth century there were few competitive markets in this part of Sussex, those at Hastings (Wednesday and Saturday) and probably Rye (Friday), and later those of Winchelsea (Thursday) and perhaps Pevensey (Sunday), would have absorbed much business that might otherwise have gone Battle's way. Battle did not lie on key overland routes, in contrast to (for example) the monastic town of Reading, which had good road connections with London, Winchester and Oxford; Battle's High Street, however, did become, if not already, part of the Hastings-London route. The town's market serviced the surrounding district, and Battle shopkeepers did a steady business with the abbey, but not so much as to become rich from it. Rather than high-end merchants arising in Battle itself, the abbey would look to the south coast ports, particularly Winchelsea, for wine and to London for spices and other luxuries. Carrying service, and the access to personal trade it might furnish, was also a source of earnings denied the Battle burgesses, for carriage of victuals and drink from Winchelsea and Romney to the abbey was one of the obligations of tenants of Dengemarsh, while those of Marley were also tasked with transporting wine from Winchelsea. Battle's townsmen had no known monopolies over local commerce, nor did they need any since all householders were burgesses, and outside traders frequenting the market needed to be encouraged rather than restricted. In terms of industry, the stone underlying the area was a source of ore for the Wealden iron industry, though there is no sign of this in the rental and its exploitation seems to have come in the Tudor period. The number of leather-workers seen from the rental, although not abnormally high compared to the ratio in other towns, might be said to foreshadow the prominence within the local economy, in the thirteenth century, of tanning and production of leather goods, aided by the abbey's construction of a tannery and bark mill. The leather industry helped keep the fair alive through the Late Middle Ages. But the town remained largely dependent on the abbey as consumer. As Searle ["Inter Amicos", p.2] noted, "Battle town did not live from trade. It lived off the abbey."

"rarely felt"
Heavy-handedness by some abbots might provoke resentment on occasion, such as when the burgesses were obliged to give up the right to have their pigs graze in the lord's woods, but were permitted if they purchased a lience, and when it was first required that all measures be sealed and then insisted that a fee be paid for application of the seal; but these issues did not provoke open rebellion. Some regret may also have been felt about the lack of a charter when the lump-sum payment due from the burgesses collectively upon the accession of a new abbot was raised to one hundred shillings – one component of a wider effort to assert abbey lordship over banlieu lands and tenant obligations – for in 1309 and again in 1311 they refused to pay, and on the latter occasion also refused to give service in haymaking. Even in 1450, in the aftermath of the Cade rebellion, in which Battle men had participated, opposition to other abbey impositions still took the form of passive resistance. But relations with most abbots seem to have been largely peaceful; the monastic community was drawn partly from sons of local burgess families, and a few of them rose to be abbots. Added to this, no class of wealthy and ambitious merchants could emerge to take leadership of the burgess community and propel it towards confrontation in an effort to free itself from abbey dominion; the prominent members of the lay community – larger property-holders – tended to be, on the one hand, those who were administrators serving the abbey and, on the other, those who served on the jury that presented offences against custom (as at Maldon) and frequently witnessed property transactions.

"higher rents"
The abbey could no longer, in order to raise rents or subdivide messuages, evict tenants without legitimate cause, as it may have done in the case of plot 32, and also may have done in the twelfth century, when expanding the abbey church required space in some of the Sandlake messuages. Henry II's possessory assizes had provided a legal recourse that offered security of seisin for freemen. Even though cases of disseisin might fall under the independent jurisdiction of the abbey court, that court still had to administer national law and administer it justly, for Henry I's grant of jurisdiction included a provision for appeal to royal courts regarding cases that could not be settled, or judgements enforced, satisfactorily by the abbey's court. To avoid such loss of jurisdiction over a case, the best option was for the abbey court to provide justice that satisfied the burgesses.

"rental of 1367"
By this period we can have less confidence that the nominal tenants – those who owed the abbey its burgage rents – were necessarily residing on the property for which they owed. Subdivision and subletting of properties, visible even in the mid-thirteenth century rental, has muddied the picture. Some subdivision was done in a formal fashion, with the burgage rent being divided between multiple tenants, while subletting might leave the official tenant paying the burgage rent out of a larger sum obtained from renting part of a property to another. Subdivision (some of which was to accommodate children reaching adulthood) applied both to the houses themselves and to the land at the rear of the houses.

"defensive capabilities"
On the role of abbey and abbot in southern defence, see Eleanor Searle, "The abbey of the conquerors: defensive enfeoffment and economic development in Anglo-Norman England," Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies, vol.2 (1980), particularly p.164.

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Created: April 2, 2014. Last update: July 8, 2014 © Stephen Alsford, 2014