Chapter III.

Period of King John and Henry III. 1199—1272.

We now come to the reign of that monarch— John—to whom the remains of the royal Manor seem to have been specially dedicated as "the ruins of King John's Palace." Some local writers have thought that he built it, a statement for which there is no foundation. They also tell us that this was a favourite residence of his, both before and after his accession to the throne. These, however, are but stretches of imagination, founded only on the name of the ruin and on the testamentary clause of his charter to Nottingham as King. As a matter of fact we have proof of five flying visits throughout his reign, and of none before his accession.

In one respect the regnal years of John differ from those of other English monarchs. He commenced to reign on Ascension Day, 27th May, 1199, and, instead of each of the following regnal years commencing on 27th May, he caused them to be controlled by the advent of Ascension Day which, as a movable feast, fluctuated during his reign over the space of one month, viz., from 3rd May to 3rd June.

1200.—John's first visit to Clipstone as King took place in the first year of his reign. He was here on 19th March, 1200, and dated hence his charter to Nottingham, confirming grants made by him while Earl of Mortain. The following list of witnesses was appended thereto, and will be of interest as recording some few of the influential nobles in his company:—"Geoffry Fitz-Peter Earl of Essex, William Brewer, Hugh Bardolf, Robert Fitz-Roger, William de Stuteville, Hugh de Neville, Simon de Pateshull, Gilbert de Norfolk. Given by the hands of Simon, Archdeacon of Wells, and John de Gray, Achdeacon of Cleveland, at Clipstone, the 19th day of March, in the first year of our reign."

During this same regnal year, in 1200, the men of Mansfield, commendably anxious to recover a lost right, offered the King fifteen marks for having Common of Pasture in the Park of Clipstone, as they were wont to have in the time of King Henry (II.) father of that King (John) before it was inclosed to make a park. At this time all favours, however just, requested of the King had to be accompanied by presents. Fifteen marks—a mark being two-thirds of a pound, 13s. 4d.—amounted to £10, a large sum in those days. For money had then about fifteen times the purchasing power it has at the present day, which would make the amount equal to £150. Probably they found themselves unable to subscribe this amount for the privilege, which consequently lapsed, for the following year the sheriff reported that the amount was unpaid, and we hear no more of it.

1201.—The King again called at Clipstone this year, on 6th March, in which month four out of five of his recorded visits took place. We have, doubtless, a reference to this visit in the account of William Brewer, Sheriff, this year, in which occurs the cost of carrying the King's bacons from Clipstone to Northampton, 10s. 10d., and to the Chaplain of Clipstone 20s. of his livery, from the Sunday next before the feast of St. Nicholas (St. Nic. 6th Dec.) until the Sunday next before the feast of the Ascension (Ascen. 18th May in year 2) by the King's writ, and likewise 20s. to him from that time till St. Michael (St. Mich. 29th September.)

1204.—At the latter end of this year, on 26th December, while at Tewkesbury, the King sent to the Sheriff of Notts., ordering him to procure out of his ferm,—the county ferm,—so much as was necessary for the repair of the Houses of Clipstone, by view, &c., the amount to be computed to him, &c. The plural, Houses, is constantly used in writs of this character, and itself conveys an impression of what the place was probably like— a collection of buildings for every purpose, perhaps added to a central or main structure as occasion arose, without fixed design; and at a short distance, within the Hays, the necessary buildings and outhouses of a mediaeval farm with houses or huts for the men.

1204-5.—In the lists of lands of the Normans granted for this year, occurs to Richard de Lessington the Manor of Lessington or Lexington, and for Geoffry de Gors—probably he of 1189— the Vill of Clipstone, in the county of Nottingham.

1205.—The King paid his third visit this year on 11th March. It was doubtless on this occasion, and for the royal table, that the Sheriff conveyed wine here. For on 28th September following the King, while at Nottingham, directed his writ to the Barons of his Exchequer, ordering them to reckon with that official for that which he had expended in carriage of wine from Nottingham to eleven places, including two tuns to Clipstone.

1206.—The King on 10th March, while at Nottingham, directed the Barons of his Exchequer to reckon with the Sheriff for what he had expended—by the King's command and by view and testimony of legal men—in repairing the Houses of Clipstone.

1207.—The King on 23rd May, being at Doncaster, directed his writ to Greoffry de Jorce, commanding him to release to Philip Minekan, or Munekan, the Houses of Clipstone, with the Hays, and the custody thereof, as also twenty librates of land, or land of the annual value of twenty pounds, which were formerly Ivon de Fontibus', but which were afterwards committed to him and Richard de Lexington. (The two latter are mentioned as Foresters two years earlier.) The said Philip was to have only 100s. to sustain him in the King's service, and was to answer to the King concerning the residue and concerning the Vill of Clipstone. The average extent of a librate of land, it may be added, was four bovates or oxgangs.

On 28th July following, the King, while at Burton, sent intimation to Brian de Insula that he had commanded John fil Jordan, of Boston, to liberate unto him, or to a certain messenger, sixteen dolia or casks of the King's wines which were in his custody, to wit, twelve dolia of wine of Wascon' and four of Muisac'. Of these the said Brian was to convey three tuns of wine of Wascon' and one of Mussac' to Clipstone, and more to Scrooby, Lexington, and elsewhere. A dolium of wine contained fifty-two sextaries, each sextary consisting of four gallons.

On 12th October following, from Marlborough, the King commanded his Barons of the Exchequer to settle with the creditor for fifteen dolia of wine, bought at need or occasion, and of which he had caused four dolia to be sent to Harestan and three to Clipstone,—others to Lexington, Southwell, Newark, Gringley, &c.

The King at the end of the year, on 27th December, being at Windsor, sent to the Sheriff of Notts., commanding him to allow to Philip Munekan money from the county ferm for the reparation of the Houses and Dam of Clipstone, which were in the custody of the said Philip.

1210.—It is an unfortunate circumstance that the series of rolls from which many of these notes are taken, and by which the whereabouts of the King at almost any date may be discovered, are broken at this interesting period by the loss of those for the period of four regnal years—1208— 1212. Another kind of roll, however, for one year, the twelvth, 1210—11, is fortunately preserved, by which happily we are enabled to record another royal visit here. John was at Nottingham in November, 1210, for several days and until Tuesday in the feast of St. Andrew, which latter day is 30th November. On the Thursday following he was at Clipstone, whence he advanced half-a-mark to Thomas Fletcher de prestito, or by way of imprest, which however appears to be deleted. He also advanced twelve shillings, on the same day and in a similar way, to Robert de Percy and John de Winterburn for the expenses of the soldiers in Ireland. It is uncertain on what day the King left Clipstone, but he spent the following Sunday and Monday at Lexington.

1212.—This is the year by which, perhaps, Clipstone is best remembered by most of us. The well-known historical story of the execution of the Welsh hostages by King John in 1212 is commonly understood, as evinced by scores of local works, to have had its inception here. The story goes that John, while hunting near Clipstone where he was staying, received tidings of a revolt against him among the Welsh, and also, directly afterwards, another communication apprising him of a conspiracy against him in the northern parts of England. Hastily summoning a council around him of the distinguished individuals in his company, they gathered under a tree thenceforth called the Parliament Oak. The King informed them of the nature of the communications, and, in a passion, demanded and received their consent to the execution of twenty-eight Welsh hostages then confined in Nottingham Castle, whose lives he appears to have considered forfeited. He then mounted his horse, and, followed by his company, rode with all speed to Nottingham where, by his orders, the whole number—their youth being ignored—were suspended in a row from the ramparts. John then, without delay, returned to Clipstone to dine and to resume his diversions.

Whatever may be the truth about this alleged deed of John's, I am afraid the idea of its connection, in any way, with Clipstone must be relinquished. None of the chroniclers, so far as I can find, record such a detail. Rapin, the authority sometimes given, does not connect the story with Clipstone. In short it seems more than probable that some local writer has connected the so-called King John's Palace and Parliament Oak with the incident of the executions, as a likely way of localising the episode. It cannot be definately stated that the story so originated, but I have been unable to trace it further back than the first Notts, directory, 1830. Still Major Rooke, it should be added, in his pamphlet on Sherwood Forest 1799, says the Oak is so called "from a tradtional account of a parliament or meeting having been held under it in the time of King John or probably Edward I," It is not pleasant, though expedient, to blot out local legends, and it is to be regretted that it cannot be finally decided whether King John was here in 1212, before 4th May or not, though it is certain he was not here after that date. It may be added that he was at Nottingham 6th to 9th July inclusive, again 14th to 21st August, and again on 10th September.

1214.—On the 8th August Robert de Lexington, during the King's absence in France, was commanded by a deputy to cause what was needed to be done for the repair of the Lord King's Houses of Clipstone, by view of four lawful men,—whatever was so expended to be accounted to him at the Exchequer.

1215.—The King, on the 11th January, while at the New Temple, London, commanded the Sheriff to provide payment for the two chaplains at Clipstone and Harestan, there ministering, by his command, for the soul of King Henry, his father. This note is of interest as the first intimation of the Chantry here, founded apparently by John.

While the King was at Litchfield, on the 2nd April, he directed his writ to the Barons of his Exchequer, ordering them to reckon with Brian de Insula for that which Philip Monekan, sometime Keeper of his Houses of Clipstone, had by command expended. The same Brian was also to be settled with for what he had expended while himself held that custody, after the said Philip had been deposed. The different styles of spelling the late Custodian's name are but accountable variations of one word, well known as a surname in its modern form. The Anglo-Saxon 'mynecen,' the feminine of 'munuc,' are equivalent to the Latin 'monachus,' monk.

In the March following King John paid his last visit to Clipstone. He was here on the 26th and 27th; the 28th he was at Kingshagh; and on the 29th he was again at Clipstone. The latter date,— evidently a mere coincidence,—was the anniversary of the first visit of King Richard twenty-one years before, when Coeur-de-Lion was "much pleased" therewith. It is improbable but not impossible that John, being informed of the circumstance and perhaps already experiencing declining health, returned from Kingshagh to pass the day at Clipstone out of respect for his brother's memory.

1216.—The King on the 25th February, while at Lincoln, issued writs to numerous constables, including one to the Constable of Clipstone, commanding them not to take the revenues of the lands or fees, in their respective bailiwicks, which were in the custody of William Brewer—that which had already been taken to be without delay rendered. This, if it is not another name for the Custodian or Keeper, is the only reference to such an official. It would be a decided acquisition if we could print, what a thorough search through the public records could alone supply, viz.: a list of all Chaplains, Keepers, Constables, and other officials of Clipstone, to which odd references will be found in divers places.

King John died in Newark Castle on the 19th October following. A statement for which there is no foundation, probably promulgated by one of those who revel in making Clipstone his favourite residence, says that he was then journeying hither.

Henry III. was crowned 28th October, 1216, on which date his regnal years commence.

1220.—Henry, on the 23rd November, while at Winchester, directed the Barons of his Exchequer to reckon with Philip Mark, Sheriff, for seven pounds and eightpence, spent by him in reparation of the great Dam and Mill of Clipstone, and in repairing the Pale about the King's Houses there. Mr. Yeatman gives this amount, from the Sheriff's account, as £7 6s. 8d.

1221.—The King, on the 15th June, being at Blythe, directed the following writ to Brian de Insula: You are commanded to take with you a Verderer of the bailiwick of Clipstone and go to Clipstone to view the burnt houses of our poor men there; and allow the same men a reasonable allowance of building-wood to rebuild their houses, where there is a sufficiency of this,—at the least detriment to our Forest.

The above is an item of special interest. This, no doubt, is to what Thoroton refers when he says that Clipstone was burned it seems and repaired again before 5th. Henry III., 1220-1." He, however, is not quite right in setting the incident down as having happened before that year. These notes suffice to show that it took place during the year. Throsby, in his edition of—alias additions to— Thoroton, naturally wonders whether it was the 'palace' or the village that was burnt. We learn from the above that the houses of the King's "poor men," as he compassionately terms them— which at that time probably represented the village—were destroyed. But we have reason to believe that the Manor House was also destroyed in some measure. It seems, indeed, not unlikely that a large conflagration, such as would be involved in the case of the latter, perhaps spread to the outbuildings,—at least rather than the reverse. Until the "men"—doubtless feudatory tenants who claimed only to be tried at the court of their lord—had erected new huts they would probably have no roof to sleep under. The King seems to have recognised the urgency of their case for, on the 23rd June, only eight days after the above writ, while at Nottingham, he dispatched another to the same which only differed from the preceding in enjoining that the provision of the wood should be at the least detriment to the Forest above all.

1223.—The King, while at Westminster on the 7th February, wrote commanding the Sheriff of Notts., without delay, to make reparation of the King's chamber of Clipstone,—the cost so incurred, by view and testimony of legal men, to be computed to him at the Exchequer.

At the same time and place another writ was directed to Brian de Insula, commanding him to allow the Sheriff to have, for the purpose, building-wood from the Forest of Sherwood, whence it might be best procured. Whether the need for repairing the King's chamber was occasioned by the fire two years previously is uncertain. Probably it was; the reason that its repair had not been ordered earlier was because no likelihood of the monarch using it had appeared. Indeed, though the above mandate—which was repeated three months later, 6th May—seems to imply an intended visit on the part of his Majesty, none such took place. After searching a large number of records relating to this period I have been unable to discover that Henry, during his long reign of fifty-six years, ever visited Clipstone. If this is so—a matter for some surprise—he differed from both his three predecessors and his three successors. So in this respect he stands along in his line with Richard II., the last of the Plantagenets.

1225.—On the 12th November Hugh de Nevill was commanded to allow Brian de Insula to have —apparently for the second time—full seisen, or possession, of the Lord the King's Houses of Clipstone, with the Park, Hays, &c., and their appurtenances, which the King commits to his custody during pleasure.

1235-6.—The King, this year, committed the custody of the Honour of Peverel to Roger de Essex, and at the same time appointed him Custodian of the Manors of Kingshagh and Clipstone.

1246-7.—The King committed to Robert le Vavassur, Sheriff of Nottingham, the Manors of Derlington, Retford, Clipstone, and Ragenhall (Ragnall), to be kept by him so long as it should please the King.

1249-50.—The Sheriff of York commanded—by view of the Mayor, Bailiffs, and other upright men of the town of York—to sell the King's old wine at York. A similar command was issued, on the same occasion, to other Sheriffs including the Sheriff of Notts., who was commanded to sell the King's wines at Nottingham and Clipstone. This was a not uncommon precept, and is curious as showing the natural preference for freshness in wines as in other foods at the time, the modern enthusiasm over old vintages having not yet developed.

1255-6.—The Sheriff was commanded, without delay, to seize into the King's hands the Manors of Clipstone in Sherwood and Melbourne, Derbyshire, which the King committed to Robert le Vavassour, sometime Sheriff of Notts, and Derby.

At the same time Roger Lovetot was appointed Custodian of the same manors, during the King's pleasure.

1265-6.—In payment of Walter, Chaplain in the Chapel of Birchland, 40s., and two chaplains at Clipstone, 100s.—from the Sheriff's account. This is the first and only occasion on which two chaplains are mentioned, so perhaps it is an error.