RETIREMENT Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval King's Lynn maintenance contracts food clothing accommodations rent widows
Subject: Private contract for maintenance in retirement
Original source: Norfolk Record Office, King's Lynn archives, KL/C10/1, f.105
Transcription in: Holcombe Ingleby, ed., The Red Register of King's Lynn, vol.1 (1919), p.222-23.
Original language: Latin
Location: King's Lynn
Date: 1359


This indenture, made at Lynn on 7 January 1359 between Thomas Reynald skinner of Lynn and Alice widow of William de Glosbrigge formerly a burgess of Lynn, witnesses that even though Thomas and William de Pountfreit skinner, burgess of Lynn, recently through a certain document made a life grant to Alice of an annual rent of 104s., due from a tenement owned by them in Briggate street, Lynn – as is detailed in that same document – Alice, however, wishes and (by this indenture) grants for herself and her assigns that the previous document, which is and shall remain in the custody of the mayor and alderman of Lynn in the town's common chest, shall not be put into effect or enforced while the conditions set out in this indenture are being fulfilled, but after the death of Alice shall be surrendered to Thomas or his executors or assigns.

[Those conditions being that] Thomas and [after his death] his executors provide Alice, for the rest of her life, at the appropriate times with food and drink in sufficient quantity and of the same quality that Thomas provides for himself and his wife. And that Thomas or his executors give Alice each year at Easter a fur-lined hooded coat, a new single-coloured tunic of woollen cloth, a new robe of blanket cloth, two new linen smocks, a new pair of gloves suitable to Alice, and three pairs of shoes. And that he or they ensure Alice always is supplied with a complete bed suitable to her status with four linen sheets, and with candles and heating materials as often and in as much quantity as she needs. Also that Thomas or his executors provide Alice for life with a chamber suitable to her status, with free passage in and out for herself and others whom she may wish to bring there, together with the service of one of Thomas' maids whenever Alice has need, be it day or night. And he or they shall pay to Alice, at whatever time she demands it, £2.13s.4d.

Thomas wishes and grants for himself, his heirs, executors and assigns, that if it should happen that he or his executors default in fulfilling any of these arrangements with Alice then the aforesaid document concerning the annual rent shall have force, be put into effect in all regards, and may be delivered to Alice. In witness to which agreement the parties have affixed their seals to the indenture.


William de Glosbrigge was not in the first rank of citizens, but apparently of some status, judging from the retirement expectations of his wife. In a deed of May 1335, he too is identified as a skinner. I conjecture that Reynald and Pountfreit may have been his executors, friends/feoffees, or even sons-in-law, and that the arrangement negotiated by Alice was to exchange a rent inherited from her husband (as dower right) for the lodging, food, clothing and other necessaries specified in the indenture. This would save her the bother of having the collect the rent – with all the risk of taking legal proceedings in the case of rent in arrears – while Reynald's incentive was to supply Alice with her annual needs for under the 104s., in order to make a profit. The document acknowledging the rent as due Alice served as a bond to guarantee fulfillment of the terms of the maintenance arrangements. It appears that Alice was to lodge with Reynald for the rest of her life.

Godmanchester, a community that straddled the line between manor and town, has a number of maintenance agreements amongst its court records. For example, from 1311:

It is to be noted that Reginald Spruntyng and Roger his son took seisin of a messuage lying in Arnyng Street along with two acres of arable and a rod and a half of meadow that Godfrey Grinde had totally surrendered to the use of the above Reginald and Roger through the hands of the bailiffs, to defend for the due farm, under this condition: That the above Reginald and Roger and their heirs or assignees should provide to the above Godfrey Grinde as long as he lives whatever should be necessary, namely in food, drink, clothing and shoes, lodging and each year the sustenance of one sheep over the winter and the ploughing of one rod of land at the convenience of that said Godfrey. In addition, the above Reginald, Roger and their heirs or assignees should provide lodging to Mabel [wife] of that Godfrey so long as she survives him and provide her each year with a chemise. If, God forbid, the above Reginald, Roger or their heirs and assignees should default in any degree against the above Godfrey then through the view of friends and neighbours of the above Godfrey satisfaction is to be made in the proper measure. The above Reginald and Roger find pledges for themselves and their heirs and assignees, namely [?] ad Crucum and Henry Spruntyng.
[J.A. Raftis, A Small Town in Late Medieval England: Godmanchester 1278-1400, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Studies and Texts no.53 (1982), 32]

The Godmanchester records show a range of types of agreement. Some are brief and vague commitments, such as that

Felicia, daughter of John Ede, is seised of one half acre of land at Todalysbroc, one rod of land at Pottersmade, one rod of land at the upper end of Corpdenebroc, one swat of meadow under le Hilmade in gift from John her father, to defend for the due farm. And if that John should become needy in any time during his life she may be expected to assist him.
[Ibid., 27]
while others were more detailed, providing for various eventualities, or made corrodial arrangements with Ramsey Abbey. Professor Raftis felt it probable that most families felt no need of a formal record for such arrangements to take care of senior family members.



"William de Glosbrigge"
The earliest reference I have found to him was in 1333, when he was among a list of townsmen participating in an array of arms (he presented for view a bow and two dozen arrows).

The head of the merchant gild, which played an important enough role at Lynn that the alderman was considered second-in-command to the mayor.

main menu

Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: June 19, 2004 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2004