Chapter 5: The Abbey in the 13th Century

Those of us who do research into genealogy and local history have reason to bless Thomas Cromwell for the edict, which in 1538, brought parish registers into existence. There was, unfortunately, no legal obligation on the English monasteries to maintain complete records and so much of what we glean about their activities comes from external sources. True, these religious houses did keep records of sorts, particularly the Cellarer's accounts and providentially some of these relating to Halesowen have been preserved and will be dealt with in some detail later in this narrative. The larger houses maintained a general register called a Cartulary, but many of these disappeared at the Dissolution. Halesowen's cartulary, strangely enough, survived this catastrophe and apparently came into the possession of the Lyttelton family, where it remained at least until the beginning of the 18th century. Tanner, in his "Notitia Monastica", first published in 1695, but re-issued with additions by his brother John Tanner in 1744, records that this register "was sometime ago in the possession of Henry Lyttelton".

We do know that in 1736 a kinsman of Henry, Charles Lyttelton, Bishop of Carlisle, was making strenuous efforts to recover the cartulary. The Society of Antiquaries has in its archives letters from the Bishop to William Mytton, the Shropshire historian, on this subject. In May 1736 we find him writing to Mytton, "Mr. Hodges, who was formerly Steward to my Grandfather, had it (the register) in his possession, and shewed it to Mr. Hall, our old chaplain now living". He went on to say that Hodges' papers had passed to his son-in-law, one Keeling, then Steward to Lord Dudley. As there was some enmity between the Dudleys and the Lytteltons, in which Keeling had some part, the Bishop felt he had little hope of recovering the precious record.

The second report of the Commission on Historical Manuscripts, which includes some account of the Hagley Muniments, does, however, mention the "cartulary of the Abbey in the shape of a roll three or four feet long". The Hagley manuscripts are now in the possession of the Birmingham Reference Library but, alas, the cartulary is not among them. It is intriguing to think that this invaluable link with the monastic past is probably gathering dust with sheaves of family papers in some musty attic. What would one give to be able to rediscover it and to reveal its story! The trouble is, of course, that so many precious documents of this sort are destroyed because the people who find them are seldom aware of their worth.

As we do not have the benefit of the details contained in the Halesowen Cartulary, we must proceed as best we can, picking up unconsidered trifles of history from a hundred and one sources and trying to piece them into a cohesive picture of monastic life. We have mentioned that building at the Abbey continued for many years after the monks arrived from Welbeck. We know from the Pipe Rolls (Exchequer Accounts) that from 1218 onwards the King was granting Peter de Rupibus £17. 6s. 8d. per annum towards the work involved. This payment did not even cease on Peter's death in 1238, but was still being paid to his successor in 1242. Royal generosity to Halesowen Abbey did not end here. In 1223, Peter had a grant of 60 tie beams (copulas) to be cut from the royal forest of Kinver "towards the work of the church at Hales" and in 1233 the King gave to the Abbot 15 oaks from which were to be cut and carved stalls for the abbey choir. From the Bishop of Winchester's own accounts we know that construction work was still going on in 1232, for it is recorded that in that year 10 ½ d. was paid "towards the expenses of the Abbot of Hales and Brother Richard, master of the works at Hales". Much later in the century, in 1293 to be precise, more building took place when the Abbot obtained a royal licence to fortify (crennelate) the monastic buildings. One supposes that this precaution was made necessary by the bitter disputes which erupted over the years between the Abbot and his tenantry. There is, for instance, an entry in Bishop Gifford of Worcester's register for 1279, bidding the Deans of Warwick, Pershore and Wick to excommunicate those "who laid violent hands on the Abbot of Halesowen and his brethren at Beoley". It is supposed that Abbey tenants with grievances, real or supposed, would be responsible for this assault.

It will be remembered that the Royal Manor of Hales with its Quarters of Romsley and Oldbury was the abbey's original endowment and this remained its principle source of wealth right up to the Dissolution, when it was contributing no less than £133 to the house's gross income of £338. Within the bounds of the Manor was the town of Halesowen, a prosperous place by 13th century standards. The Abbot and Convent soon began to take a hand in civic affairs and in 1220 they obtained royal licence for a weekly market and an annual fair at the feast of St. Denis. In 1223 this was changed and the fair was held on St. Kenelm's Day. Later in the century, representations to the Crown resulted in Halesowen being elevated to borough status. In seeking such a change, the Abbot would not be proceeding from purely altruistic motives. He would have in mind the additional income to be derived from borough courts, burgage rents, and the licences which would be necessary for the carrying on of certain trades.

The charter granting borough status is dated 1270 and it is somewhat ironic to note that while, without its abbey the town would have been unlikely to become a borough, its position vis-a-vis the abbey was not wholly an unmixed blessing. As time passed, most growing towns tried to buy themselves free of their feudal obligations to the owner of the manor. When the owner was the King (who was invariably in need of ready money) purchase was not difficult. It was a little more difficult to buy freedom for a borough when the owner of the manor was a local baron, but even he was sometimes impecunious and could be persuaded to surrender his rights for cash. When a town lay on a monastic estate (as Halesowen did) the situation was very different. A monastery was a self-perpetuating and undying entity, and successive Abbots regarded their feudal rights as sacred, to part with which would be a sin against the Holy Church. This seems to have been the root cause of the many disputes over the years between "town and gown" in Halesowen - burgesses anxious to be free of feudal obligations and abbots determined to exploit them to the full. It was not until 1327 that the abbey agreed to accept a sum of money from the town in lieu of services, and not until then was an uneasy peace established.

It seemed worthwhile to explain abbot/tenant relations in some detail, as otherwise some of the happenings in the abbey's history remain incomprehensible. Another mystery is highlighted by this story of how Halesowen became a borough. How was it that, having been granted borough status in 1270, it found itself having to seek re-election to that status some six hundred years later? One can only suppose that the town fell victim to the almost total apathy which overtook local government from the 17th century onwards. The cynic may well say that the town should have remained apathetic for, having regained borough status in 1936, and successfully fought to defend its independence a few years later, it has now disappeared under local government reorganisation into a vast amorphous impersonal enlarged Dudley. Abbot Nicholas who, one supposes, negotiated Halesowen's first charter, must have turned in his now unmarked grave under the ruins of the Abbey church.

Among the original endowments of Halesowen Abbey was the advowson (right to present a person to the living) of the town's church of St. John the Baptist. The rectory was appropriated around 1270, when a vicarage was ordained by the Bishop of Worcester (Bishop Gifford) and in 1291 it was taxed at £26. 13s. 4d. It will be seen, therefore, that it was one of the most valuable and, structurally, one of the largest parish churches in the patronage of an English Premonstratensian Abbey. Its subsidiary chapel of St. Kenelm was, because of its fame as a place of pilgrimage, a valuable source of income to the Abbot and convent. Also in its possession was the Chapel of St. Leonard at Frankley, and among the Lyttelton papers in the Birmingham Reference Library is a roll of deeds relating to the Abbey's properties in that vil.
One of the earliest, which is in Latin, and dated circa 1220, concerns a grant from Simon, the Lord of Frankley, to the Church and Canons of Hales ("for the souls of Rose his wife and Elicia his mother") of a rent of four shillings, "to be received by the hand of Robert de Mulnehurst or his heirs". Among the witnesses to this grant are William de Ramsleya (Romsley) and Ralph, chaplain of Frankley. I do not think Frankley has a complete list of its chaplains, curates and rectors, but Ralph of 1220 must have been one of the first appointed to that cure.

A document dated 1227 is still extant. This is the confirmatory charter of Henry III of the grant by his predecessor, King John, of the manor of Hales to the Abbot and Canons of Halesowen.
Signed by, among others, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Earl of Kent, and Osbert Gyffard, it is granted "by the hand of Ralph, Bishop of Chichester, our Chancellor" at Westminster, 5th April Anno 11 (1227).

The growing wealth of the Abbey allowed the numbers of its resident Canons to expand, so that by 1231 it was ready to play its part in the founding of another Premonstratensian House. On "the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross" (3rd May) 1231, Brother Richard, with other Canons of Hales, arrived at Titchfield in Hampshire to take up residence at the newly founded Abbey there. Titchfield, like Halesowen, owed its foundation to Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester.

One of the privileges most closely guarded by the Abbey was the right of sepulchre, a right which was denied to the outlying chapels of Frankley and St. Kenelm's. This is vividly illustrated by a deed dated 1236, which records the proceedings of a meeting of the Dean of Kidderminster and the Chapter, held in the church at Broome, to consider a dispute between the Abbot and Convent of Halesowen and Ralph, Chaplain of Frankley. The latter (whom we have met before as a witness to the deed of 1220) confessed that he had wrongly caused the dead body of a parishioner to be buried in the chapel of Frankley to the detriment of the mother church of Hales. He swore that nothing similar had happened before, and that he would not repeat the offence. He further deposed that he had restored to Richard the Cellarer, acting as Protector for the Abbey, the offerings which were made at the Chapel by the deceased's relatives on that occasion.

We have mentioned previously that relations between the Abbey and the townspeople of Halesowen left much to be desired. A series of disputes during the first quarter of the century of the Abbey's existence culminated in litigation which gave rise in 1242 to an uneasy settlement. By this time it was agreed that the Halesonians should give merchets (fines paid by bondmen to the Abbot to give their daughters in marriage) whether they were married within or without the Manor. They must grind their own corn at the Abbot's mill in Hales, unless that mill were out of repair. If they were fined in the Abbot's court, they should be fined according to the gravity of the offence. They must give relief for their lands at the Abbot's will, and were to be tallaged (taxed) according to the custom of the Manor, but only at the time when their lord's other manors were tallaged. Each must carry out six days ploughing and six days harrowing every Lent for each virgate (approximately 30 acres) of land held; those with less land to do proportionately less work. Finally, "they should render to the Abbot all other services which they ought to render and which lawfully they owe".

The settlement was not entirely one-sided. For his part, the Abbot made the following concessions: that neither he nor his successors would be able to exact money and services other than those set out in the agreement. That his tenants were under no obligation to attend his market at Hales. Should he obstruct any entrance or exit to his tenant's common pasture, he would be legally responsible for reparation. And, as a gesture of good faith, he remitted 12 ½ marks (£8 6s. 8d.) which his tenants had guaranteed by way of tallage.

Halesowen's Abbot Richard died in 1245 and he was succeeded by Henry de Branewyck, who was translated from the daughter house at Titchfield. It is perhaps opportune at this point, since we shall be recording many changes in this high office, to record the procedure by which Premonstratensian abbots were appointed. On the death of the Abbot, Halesowen's "Pater Abbas", the Abbot of Welbeck, together with the Abbot of another of the English houses of the Order, would visit Halesowen and immediately appoint a day for the election of a new abbot. On that day, the two Abbots, together with all the Canons of the House, would assemble in the Chapter House. If there were any brethren under excommunication or suffering any other punishment, these would be excluded. Then a hymn would be sung, followed by a reading of the rules of the Order and the commission under which the election was to be held. The election which then took place was determined, sometimes by the votes of the whole body of the Canons, and sometimes by a committee elected for that purpose. In due course, the chosen Canon was presented to the Pater Abbas, who enquired diligently into the past life of the Abbot-elect. If nothing was found against him, the election was confirmed. The visiting Abbots, accompanied by the Abbot-elect and the body of Canons, would then proceed in solemn procession to the Abbey church, sing Te Deums, following which the new Abbot was inducted into corporal possession of the church by having bell ropes given into his hands and being led to his proper stall in the choir.

There remained one further formality. The new Abbot had to receive the benediction of his Diocesan, the Bishop of Worcester, to whom he had to swear obedience. On this occasion it was the custom for the new Abbot to present to the Bishop his vestments or their value in money. He had also to provide hospitality for the Prior and Convent. Some record is preserved of the receipts and disbursements of the Abbey's Cellarer on such an occasion. There is recorded the gift of a penny apiece to 635 poor people on the day of the burial of the preceding Abbot. There are details of wax purchased at Kidderminster to make candles to burn around his body at its lying-in-state, together with particulars of wine and provisions bought to feed and entertain those coming to the burial. Details of the expenses of the visiting Abbots are given, of payments made to them and their attendants, and particulars of the journey to Worcester with 17 horses.

We have mentioned that part of the original endowment of Halesowen Abbey was the advowson of the town's church. By the gift of Sir William Rufus, circa 1224, the Abbey received the advowson of the church of Walsall with its dependent chapelries. This gift, presumably because of some real or assumed invalidity of title, was confirmed to the Abbey by Henry III in 1247.

A word now about this matter of acquiring advowsons of parish churches, since this is something which will recur in our story. One of the earliest ways in which the Abbey was enriched was by the appropriation of tithes. These, as a general rule, belonged to the parson or rector of the parish. It follows, then, that when the Abbey received the gift of an advowson, it merely became the patron of the living and the nominator of its parson. It received no benefit from the tithes. A way was found whereby this state of affairs was altered. In theory tithes were for the support of the minister, and for the repair of the church fabric. It was plausible to contend therefore that so long as these objects were covered, surplus tithes could be channelled to the enrichment of the Abbey. So it was that the licence of the Crown and the Diocesan having been obtained, the appropriation of tithes took place shortly after the gift of an advowson. Sometimes this was accompanied by an undertaking, expressed or implied, by the Abbot, to provide for the services of the church and the upkeep of its fabric. Frequently, however, at the time of the appropriation, an endowment, consisting of a portion of the tithes (usually, it must be recorded, those most difficult to collect) was provided for a regular minister, called the Vicar, who would be appointed by the Abbot, from among the serving brethren of the house.

During the thirteenth century the Abbey was enriching itself and adding to its possessions in many ways. Property came to it by gift, by bequest, by purchase and, one suspects, by other means, some of which were more than a little dubious. One gift which was more than ordinarily interesting is that of Roger, described as "son of Roger, Clerk of Hales". It cannot be positively dated but certainly was made between 1218 and 1272, and it throws some light on the topography of part of the Manor of Hales.

Roger granted to the Abbot and Canons several parcels of land, including that held by Robert Textor (Robert the Weaver) "lying under Birimore": the plot which Thomas Capellanus (chaplain) held "near the lake": the plot rented by Harold Textor (another weaver, brother to Robert?) adjoining Caluescroft Wood and Edward Bedellus's plot together with "his close of Cumbes" (c.f. Coombs Wood). Roger granted to the Abbot permission to dam a stream (presumably the infant Stour) to form a mill-pool, and to build a corn-mill; reserving to himself the right to fish in the overflow water and to have his own corn ground at the new mill without charge. The document covering this important accession to the Abbey property was witnessed by ten important local landowners including one whose name occurs frequently about this time in the deeds and charters relating to the Abbey, Simon de Frankele (Frankley). There seems to be little doubt that the transaction here described was in respect of land in the vicinity of what is now the foot of Mucklow Hill and that the projected mill-pool was, in fact, the one which, until comparatively recently, stretched from the rear of the Woodman Inn right down to the South side of the Shenstone crossroads where, even in recent years, the water power which had ground corn was used for various metal manipulating processes.

We have mentioned previously that one of the major successes of the Abbey's wealth was offerings from pilgrims to the nearby shrine of St. Kenelm. Evidently the village of Kenelmstowe, which had sprung up around the shrine, was becoming a place of some importance. You may protest that a hamlet of some thirty rude dwellings, a tiny chapel and an inn was insignificant, but it must be remembered that, at this point of history, Chester, the largest city in the North-West, consisted of only five hundred houses, while Exeter, Warwick and Canterbury boasted of only some three hundred dwellings each. Certainly Kenelmstowe was sizeable enough for Henry III in 1254 to approve the holding there of an annual four-day fair beginning on 17th July (St Kenelm's Day). The fair was held in the yard or field surrounding the chapel and the occasional discovery of medieval coins hereabouts testifies to this usage of the area.

It is difficult to assess exactly the relationship between Premonstratensian Abbots and their Diocesan. Certainly the Abbots had to swear canonical obedience to their Bishop and we find the latter visiting from time to time the abbeys in his diocese. Thus, in 1261, Walter de Cantelupe (Bishop of Worcester 1237-1266) paid a visit to Hales Owen Abbey. A study of the register of a succeeding bishop, Bishop Giffard, shows that he was assiduous in his visits to the house. Writing from Wyk (Wick) in July 1275 he declares his intention of visiting the monastery and he enjoins the Canons to prepare for his reception. On the Feast of St. Valentine the Martyr in 1281 the Bishop and his retinue stayed at Hales Owen two days at the cost of the Abbots and Canons. On 16th July 1284 he was at the Abbey again and further visits are recorded in 1289 and 1292. On the last occasion he did not stay but accepted a money offering from the Abbot in lieu of entertainment. These bald statements of fact cloak what must have been colourful and important occasions in the Abbey's history. It is not difficult to imagine the splendour and the spectacle of such visits, the vivid hues of the vestments of Bishop and retinue contrasting with the newly-laundered white vestments of the Canons, while the Abbey bells would be ringing a welcome.

Other entries in Giffard's register deserve mention in our chronicle. He writes from Bredon to the Abbot in April 1275 asking that provision be made for maintenance of a Vicar at Hales. In 1281 he records the Bull of Pope Martin granting the Abbot and Convent of Hales licence to impropriate the churches of Halesowen and Walsall. The incumbents of Hales were of course chosen from the Abbey's serving brothers. Gifford records in 1282 the death of Richard Tinctor, one such brother who had been presented to the living, and the induction in his place of Robert de Croule (Crowle). He was succeeded in turn in 1286 by another of the Canons of Hales, Brother William Russel.

It is strange that we can provide fairly exact dates when a monk of Hales assumed parochial duties while of the dates when most of the Abbots were elected we have no record. We know that Abbot Henry of Branewyk was succeeded by Abbot Martin, and that he was followed by Abbot Nicholas who died on 1st January 1299.
Nicholas seems to have been one of the most outstanding of Halesowen's Abbots, combining the role of strict disciplinarian with that of administrator, at the same time spending a great deal of time in superintending the enlarging and beautifying of the Abbey buildings. He is remembered as the man who secured for the town of Halesowen its first elevation to Borough status, and it was during his tenure of office that the wonderful encaustic tiles with which the abbey was floored were designed, made, fired and laid.

From fragments of tile excavated on the abbey site it is possible to illustrate one striking set, which consisted of five tiles, four so shaped as when placed together they formed a square with sides of approximately seventeen inches. There was an aperture in the centre to receive a circular tile. The border tiles were richly ornamented while the centre piece had a representation of Nicholas in his vestments holding his pastoral staff. Round Nicholas's effigy is a Latin inscription in Lombardic capitals. As this is in rhyming hexameters we will attempt as near an English rendering as possible:

"Nicholas Abbot these tiles to Christ's mother lay on the ground did. Long, 0 Mother, may Nicholas flourish and not be confounded."

Henry VIII's suppression of the monasteries will remain for ever one of the most controversial events in English history, for there will always be those who romantically regard the great abbeys as centres of holy living, while others see them as hot-beds of vice, gluttony and easy living. (Our local poet, William Shenstone, was one of the latter, as a reading of his poem "The Ruined Abbey". Halesowen's famous novelist Francis Brett Young quoted relevant lines from this same poem in his unfinished novel "Wistanslow".)

The truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, but one thing is certain, there were irregularities in the conduct of some of the Premonstratensian houses during the few hundred years of their existence, and we may perhaps notice just now two, one where Halesowen was the purveyor of justice and the other where our local abbey was the scene of apparent misdemeanour. Talley, the Carmarthenshire house of the White Canons, was a daughter house of Halesowen, and it fell to the lot of the Abbot of Halesowen as Father-Abbot of Talley to visit the Welsh establishment several times to correct the excesses which were reported from there.

Halesowen itself was in trouble in 1310 for, in that year, a mandate from the Abbot of Premontre was issued to the Abbots of the English Abbeys of Langdon (Kent) and Dale (Derbyshire) instructing them to proceed to Halesowen and to receive there, or compel the resignation of Abbot Walter de la Flagge. They found him guilty of excessive harshness; of incontinence and disobedience. He was said to be incapable of rule because he participated in divine service while under sentence of excommunication, and had apparently attempted to escape correction by appealing to the secular power against the visiting abbots. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case may have been, Flagge succeeded in evicting his reverend judges from the precincts of Halesowen Abbey by force, an outrage which brought upon his head a renewed sentence of excommunication. This sentence he appears to have disregarded for he continued in office until 1314 when only death robbed him for ever of his abbot's stall.

It is appropriate here to comment on the manner of a Premonstratensian Abbot's burial. The funeral rites were strictly laid down in the Premonstratensian Ordinal. It was usual for Abbots to be buried within the abbey walls, unlike humble canons for whom a cemetery was provided outside. Either the church, chapter house or, more rarely, the cloister walks were the usual places for an Abbot's interment and it was customary for an effigy or inscribed stone to be placed over the grave.

Completing the obligation of the convent towards the departed prelate was the celebration of a certain number of masses, an entry in the martyrology on the anniversary of his death and the preparation of a mortuary bill requesting other religious houses to pray for his soul.

Excavations at Halesowen have failed to reveal any grave slabs marking the last resting place of its abbots, but it is certain that somewhere within the majestic church which measured some 189 feet by 105 feet there rest the bones of some sixteen of those prelates who, after living in some state and being buried with pomp, now have unmarked and unhallowed resting places.

In writing the history of a religious house such as Halesowen, it is of little use providing a learned catalogue of architectural details coupled with a list of dates unless one can contrive at the same time to capture the flavour of the place - to recapture its real spirit. It is necessary to paint in the rich old monkish look of beauty and fertility, to conjure up a picture of low-lying meadows with cattle knee-deep in luxuriant grass, to envisage the clear young Stour losing itself in the string of fish ponds well stocked with trout. One must imagine Brother Richard hooking out a fine trout for the Abbot's supper, with Brother Thomas standing by, breaking the tenth Commandment, as he ponders gloomily on the lentils and coarse pottage which will make up his evening meal. One must think beyond the abbey itself to those scattered granges at Illey and Farley and Hasbury, where originally the conversi (lay brethren) laboured in the fields, later to be replaced, as the accounts of Halesowen's grangiarius (farm bailiff) for 1360-1364 show, by paid labour.

Such is the backcloth to our story as the 13th century nears its end, and as our Abbey (the trials and tribulations of construction virtually over) approaches a century of existence. One is tempted to note among the minutia of events that in 1281 Brother William Hunte was a serving brother of the house and to hope that one's own roots are thus deep in this beloved corner of Worcestershire!

There were other religious houses within easy riding distance of Halesowen. At Dudley was a flourishing priory, but relations between Abbot and Prior were not always sweetness and light. In 1296, for instance, there was a dispute and litigation between them as to who had jurisdiction over the tiny chapel at Frankley. Halesowen's Abbot won the day. Over at Dodford was a small priory of Augustinian Canons, founded by Henry II as long ago as the 1180's. It never seems to have achieved prosperity and, indeed, because of its poverty it was, in 1292, exempted from taxation. It is mentioned here because much later, its Augustinian connection was severed and it became a cell of Halesowen Abbey, whose Abbot was required to keep one brother in residence there to minister to the spiritual needs of the local inhabitants.

Nicholas's long and fruitful ministry as Abbot at Hales ended in 1298. He was succeeded by John, one of the Canons of the house, who had his consecration on the 8th of the Kalends of February 1298 at Bosbury at the hands of the Bishop of Hereford.

John appears to have held office for a comparatively short time, for he was succeeded in 1305 by Walter de la Flagge who seems to have been something of a political cleric. He was summoned to Parliament several times as were Abbots of about 48 other Premonstratensian houses. He was also present at a meeting of Abbots of the Order in 1310 when they decided to resist the efforts of the Abbot of Premontre to collect taxes from individual abbeys, said to be for the good of the Order as a whole. These clerics found themselves in a very delicate position for, if they resisted the edicts of Premontre, they laid themselves open to excommunication, while if they attempted to send money (or sometimes wool in lieu) overseas they were contravening a royal veto of 1298 and were in danger of having their property seized by the King's officers. In the event they submitted their dilemma to the Pope and by 1316 their obligation to submit both to royal and overseas ecclesiastical exactions was virtually at an end.

Since the fortunes of Romsley church of St Kenelm were so bound up with those of the Abbey, it is interesting to note that at about this time (early 14th century) the now almost totally obscured wall paintings, which depicted the death of the boy saint, were executed.

Abbot Walter died in 1314 and was succeeded by Bartholomew, who had to preside over a manor hit in 1315 and 1316 by crop failure and famine. One day of glorious pageantry and ceremony shines out, however, from the gloom of the times. On a day of high summer in 1322 (27th June) a Bishop was consecrated within the Abbey church. He was Roger de Norbury (or Northburgh) who was created Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry by Thomas Cobham, then Bishop of Worcester.

In that year Bartholomew died and Thomas de Lech was elected to the vacant stall. His ministry is noteworthy for the uneasy and temporary peace which he established in the relations between Abbey and tenantry.

In this long history of dissension between the Abbot who was also, of course. Lord of the Manor and the local peasantry, an incident of 1279 may be recalled. There is an entry in the episcopal register of that year instructing the Deans of Warwick, Pershore and Wick to excommunicate those who laid violent hands on the Abbot of Halesowen and his brethren at Beoley. This may well refer to an actual physical attack made on the Abbot by belligerent tenants. We shall find ourselves returning to this theme at intervals in our survey of the Abbey's history.

The edict which prevented the English Premonstratensian Abbeys from sending money to the mother house at Premontre did not prohibit visits to that place by English Abbots. This is shown by an intriguing entry in the Calendar of Close Rolls for Edward III (1327). Under the dateline 1st September the following appears:-

"To Bartholomew de Burgerssh, Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, or to him who supplies his place in the port of Dover. Order to permit the Abbot of Westerham, who is going by the King's licence to his Chapter-General at Premontre, to cross from that port with 20 marks for the expenses of himself and his household. The like in favour of the Abbot of Hales Owayn, who is going to the same parts with four horses and 20 marks."

A mark, incidentally, was a silver coin, the value of which expressed in pre-decimalisation terms was approximately thirteen shillings and fourpence.