Blood In the Barley
The Hidden Story of the Vale Royal Rebellion
The Vale Royal Rebellion is a medieval tale of murder, manipulation and struggle set amidst one of the most turbulent periods in all of English history. Yet it is only when we bring the contributing political factors, key players and major events of the story together as one, that we can really appreciate just what a remarkable piece of Cheshire history the story truly is.
There are certain characters and places that become unavoidable when writing about Cheshire history in the medieval period. Ranulf de Blondville, 6th Earl of Chester is a fine example of this, so broad was his influence during the thirteenth century. Vale Royal Abbey, in its own way, shares that level of prominence too. Its history is intrinsically bound to wider political and military events of the age and a fully realised history of the abbey would likely run into the thousands of pages, its unique bouquet of characters and events weaving throughout the story relaid in much the same manner as do the holes of the golf course that is set in the abbey grounds today. Down each, we may find a tale that sends us back in time, but most remarkable among them is surely that of the rebellion that took place against its abbot and brethren during the 1330s.
It is a story that provides us with a genuine insight regarding life during a unique period in English history, a time when the concerns of both the peasantry and the gentry were briefly aligned, making them unlikely bedfellows, united in opposition to an increasingly ambitious system of ecclesiastical rule that was busying itself deconstructing the established socio-economic order of the rural world.
I have written previously about the latter half of the fourteenth century and the events surrounding Dieulacres Abbey across the border in Staffordshire which set the scene for the murder of John de Warton. That account, taken together with this, could be seen as localised bookends to what should be considered to be one of the most turbulent centuries in all of medieval England. It is a mark of the times that the Vale Royal rebels didn’t just air their grievances in hope of resolution. They would band together and stride out across country, hunting down their quarry. In the fields of Cheshire, they would burn the harvest and butcher the livestock. They would, more than once, commit murder.
It is a story that, across the years, has given fans of deep local history plenty of cause to marvel, but it is one that has never been anything like fully understood. Whilst we might know what the rebels did, we haven’t yet known how they managed to do it. Hopefully, we will enjoy the journey to that particular destination here together; a journey that begins in the heart of our county, and in the founding of a building that was built upon the personal, holy vow of a king.
There is a foundation myth connected to Vale Royal Abbey that has been doing the rounds for the better part of 700 years. It tells of how during a storm in the English Channel, the future King Edward I became so concerned for his life that he knelt upon the deck and amidst the whipping winds of the fray, pleaded for the Virgin Mary to lift his ship up and on to safety. If she did this, as such was Edward’s eye for a deal, he would build in her honour the greatest abbey in all of England. Vow made, in an instant, the winds receded and the skies cleared, the king and his party sailing back to England on a restful sea - only to see that once safely ashore, the storm again gathered strength, smashing the empty ship to pieces in the bay.
The provenance of this story, as you might expect, has been questioned aplenty, with many observers assuming Edward’s channel crossing to have been made on return from crusade in the early 1270s. This is a difficult date, as it would place the storm as happening several years later than the first charter mentioning the abbey came into existence (in the year 1270). For me though, Edward had plenty of cause to travel across the channel during the preceding decade and so the story should not be so easily dismissed.
The English-held region of Gascony in modern-day France had been under threat of invasion from the Iberian Kingdom of Castile pretty much constantly throughout the period. It was a situation that had encouraged a match to be made by Edward’s father, the ruling King Henry III, for his son with Eleanor, half-sister of the Castilian king, Alfonso X. A key part of the deal was that Alfonso would stop toying with his idea of invading Gascony, which then subsequently became part of the young Edward’s marriage bounty. As such, it is probable that the abbey’s eventual founding, around 1270, was indeed a result of Edward effectively doubling down on an insurance policy before his leaving for crusade - not on his return; a reaffirming of his pledge to the Virgin Mary from that storm in the English Channel years before, in hope of good fortune on his travels to the East.
Why Cheshire was picked for Edward’s statement piece is also directly tethered to events in his younger life. His marriage endowment of 1254 included land in Ireland and Wales, but chief among his English gift was the Earldom of Chester - from which he would use the title ‘Lord of Chester’ until his ascension to the throne in 1272. He was known to have been genuinely fond of the county, visiting on multiple occasions, and later, Edward’s son - the future King Edward II - would himself go on to be granted the Earldom. Chester, and Cheshire as a whole, was a place held dear in Edward’s heart. That his great church project should be set within it, an altogether natural choice.
His abbey would be first built at Darnhall, a tiny Cheshire village near Winsford today, and a place likely known to the young Edward due to its hunting lodge, long popular with the Earls of Chester. This initial endeavour however would be beset with problems from day one. The first monks arrived in 1274, but no sooner had they put on their robes that difficulties arose with their estate, courtesy of fierce local contention regarding their new forestry rights, which the locals had had long held in tenure for themselves.
Such privileges were key factors in the foundation of an abbey, timber being a serious business concern in the 1300s. Whilst it was far from unusual to have such issues early on in the life of an abbey, perhaps the distinctly partisan nature of the unrest this caused in Darnhall should have been taken as a warning of things to come. This, together with a more general lack of suitability at the initial site for future building, meant that a rapid change of direction was needed, and in 1276 the decision was made to move the abbey to a new site five miles north, on the edge of the Forest of Modrem, near the village of Over. Foundation stones were then laid by King Edward himself on 13th August 1277.
Stood in the summer sun, his family at his side, and at last having come good on his vow, Edward would have been a proud man knowing that the stage was finally set for the construction of what was to be the greatest Cistercian church in all of Europe. Plans were already being drawn up for Vale Royal to directly rival Westminster Abbey in scale. The world around him, however, would have very different, and very bloody, ideas to the contrary.
War in the West
In the years following the Norman invasion of England, and the eventual settling of the conflict, attention would naturally turn to the war-band kingdoms of Wales. Despite repeated military action, come the early thirteenth century, the Kingdom of Gwynedd, based in North Wales and Anglesey, had not only survived but had come to establish itself as a genuine concern to the Marcher Lordships - independently marshalled areas originally set up from Chester to Hereford as a buffer zone to England, where local nobility would rule in the king’s name. With the emergence of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as leader in 1256, the problem of Gwynedd had brought such concern to the English that an agreement was brokered at Montgomery in 1267 which saw Llywelyn formally recognised as Prince of Wales. This agreement, however, was purely between Gwynedd and the Crown. Further south along the border, Llywelyn was still very much at war with the Marcher Lords.
Many had come to blame the escalating situation in Wales on the lack of decisive action undertaken by his father, and so upon coming to the throne himself, Edward had vowed to handle things very differently. All he needed was an excuse to get the ball rolling, and following a snub at Chester in 1275, where Edward had invited Llywelyn to personally pay homage and reconfirm his allegiances, the new king finally had cause to act. In 1277, the very year of his visit to lay the foundations at Vale Royal, Edward declared war.
The conflict would rumble on one way or another until December 1282, when Llywelyn was killed at the Battle of Orewin Bridge before Edward led an army into the heartlands of Gwynedd resistance in Snowdonia to cement his victory completely. His success would usher in the great building period in North Wales, during which many of the castles and towns we know today first came into being. For the fledgling abbey back in Cheshire, the conflict and its aftermath could not have come at a worse time.
That Edward had likely intended Vale Royal to be his final resting place is of little doubt. At the outset, more than 90 masons were working on the project. Designed by the highly respected church architect Walter of Hereford, the building was originally set to be almost 400 feet in length, with a central tower, 13 radiating chapels, and a 140 feet cloister. During the first 4 years of construction alone, more than 35,000 cart-loads of stone were brought in from the quarry at nearby Eddisbury, and vast timber clearances ordered throughout the nearby forests. In 1283, Edward had even donated a piece of the ‘True Cross’ to the abbey; that supposedly being the actual wooden cross on which Christ was said to have been crucified. With the building project in Wales now firmly underway however, its borders barely a day’s ride from Vale Royal, the enthusiasm and readiness to spend that had initially been fostered onto the abbey just couldn’t last. Funds originally earmarked for Vale Royal had already been diverted into the war effort, and so too now would be the tradesmen themselves. Slowly but surely, the builders and stone masons vanished from their work in Cheshire.
Now living with far more pressing matters than the security of his pet project, by 1290, Edward’s patronage of the abbey seems to have become utterly absent. When Walter of Hereford went to claim his wages for the forthcoming year of his contract, Edward made it clear that there would be no more forthcoming once that particular payment had been met, stating directly that he was ‘no longer concerned by the works at Vale Royal.’ Word spread fast and soon the few remaining masons and labourers still working on the site would leave too for fear of absent wages. From that point on, devoid of the pomp and ambition so prevalent just 16 years earlier, Vale Royal Abbey would be in a state of perpetual existential crisis, fighting for its very right to exist.
Words of Refusal
The difficulties that had faced the project during its earliest years in Darnhall were born from the dissatisfaction of the locals concerning the rights latterly granted to the abbey, carved out in their minds at least, from what they had long seen as a fair suite of their own. It was a problem that would repeat itself to an even greater degree with the new abbey at Over. Forestry rights were, for institutions such as that as Vale Royal, a much-needed route to ready cash in the church coffers. For those they were taken from in the process, it represented a multifaceted, almost incalculable loss.
The forests of medieval England were filled with the source material on which life depended. Timber was used not only in construction and for the maintenance of homes, but the woodlands provided warmth in winter too. In addition, the rights of free warren in the forest covered the game living within. Now, not only had the very substance of life been transferred from the local population to the abbey, but anyone wishing to use the forest for their basic nourishment would have to pay for the privilege too.
There were also broader local changes, many of which came with intrusive personal implications. For the marriage of a daughter, for example, a fee or ‘leyrwithe’ was payable by the father, should the families concerned inhabit abbey land. Rarely possible in terms of coin, this facet of the law often resulted in villagers having to pay via services rendered on the land of the institution, taking years to pay off. In another classic move of the era, the villagers of Over would also lose their right to hold a weekly market to the abbey in 1280. Again, this meant that anyone trying to make a living locally, to sell produce or ale, was subjected to fresh taxation.
Understandably, local populations were rarely pleased when such a church was invested so near to home, and almost from the year of its founding, the villagers of Over and Darnhall had demonstrated an acute ability to protest. With Edward so intimately connected to the situation at the time, this gave more options for recourse than would normally be expected. Complaining directly to the king in 1278, bringing with them their scythes as symbols of their working, independent status, Edward had dismissed the locals directly, commenting how ‘as villeins you have come and as villeins you shall return’. With this language, calling the locals ‘villeins’, Edward was making a direct statement that as far as he was concerned, they were now little more than serfs; forever tied to the land and those who owned it.
For the better part of twenty years from these initial protests, there would periodically arise campaigns of complaint, reaching something of a juncture in the year 1307, when having finally presented their grievances to the Chief Justice of Chester, the court simply moved to re-affirm the rights of the abbey. It was a response that lit a spark. By this time, villagers from outlying communities were also feeling the turn of the abbey’s screw, with the confiscation of the Middlewich salt pits now also falling into the gift of Vale Royal. The abbey’s instinct for survival, constantly directed to success by its early stewards, had brought about a robust attitude to business dealings and a range of heavyweight legal techniques that would prove increasingly useful in the years to come.
Come 1320 Edward was dead and his son, King Edward II, was now on the throne. As famine threatened the county, Vale Royal, long since cut from its regal umbilical, found cause to embolden its attitudes even further. Local activism was beginning to turn violent, Richard of Evesham, 4th Abbot of Vale Royal, had been promoted from within and was well versed in the objections of the locals, with records of the time noting how he had once had his horse shot from under him with arrows whilst employed in the collection of tithes.
An interesting aside regarding Richard of Evesham is that he was famed during his tenure as being a kind of spiritual beacon for the ghosts of dead monks who may have died without confession, abbey records noting how their apparitions would appear before him in search of safe passage to heaven. The stated rationale for his horse being shot from under him, however, the collection of ‘tithes’, was an altogether more earthly matter.
Representing one-tenth of an amount of produce, this system of taxation had been in use since the classical period throughout Europe, and having been established in England by King Ethelwulf in 855, by the 1300s it had come to represent a genuinely poisonous issue for land owners and tenants alike. A central pillar of government at a local level, there are still a number of tithe barns (huge structures used for housing the tithe produce of a parish) located across Cheshire today. As a tenant, the collection of tithes was a visible reminder of who was in charge.
For the local gentry, to whom the tithe was previously owed, it was an intolerable affront to their long-held local status. In the issue of tithe collection by Vale Royal, local gentry and peasantry had found something like a common bond - a sense of things being a lot better under the old regime; after all, these were families that, for better or worse, had held the local community together for the better part of two hundred years. It was only a matter of time until such grievances galvanised into something like a rallying cry and come 1321, local hostility to the abbey was beginning to bubble over, when a servant of the abbot found himself at the cutting edge, quite literally, of local sentiment, Ormerod’s Cheshire History noting that;
The hatred which had long been cherished against the abbey by its dependents now began to manifest itself in the most violent manner, as early as 1321, in which year it appears that the monks who ventured to pass their consecrated limits were pursued by the Winningtons, Leghtons and Bulkeleys, and only saved their lives by flight; and in the same year, it appears the Oldyntons murdered John Boddeworth, a monk of the abbey, and played football with his head.
John Boddeworth, or John of Budworth, was murdered by a group of local families who then apparently took to playing football with his severed head! This is a fascinating passage, which clearly references the risks that monks of Vale Royal could face when leaving the safety of the abbey boundaries.
Things sure were getting gruesome in the countryside around Vale Royal and come 1322, a new abbot would arrive to oversee the task of getting the whole thing under control - a man who would come to find himself cemented at the heart of the abbey’s bloody fourteenth century history; Abbot Peter.
Five years into his tenure, in 1327, and far from impressed with the local situation, Abbot Peter would mount the most grievous legal action yet in an attempt to eradicate any notions the locals had of further rebellion. He drew up a legal document known as a ‘custumal’ specifically for the lands of Darnhall and Over. The aim was to definitively outline the respective positions of both sides in relation to the rights of Vale Royal once and for all. Its creation would simply serve to escalate the situation towards new troublesome heights, and in the process, lock in the major players of the piece.
As a first response, the people of Darnhall and Over seem to have partnered a genuine faith in the county justice system together with an organised, strategic resistance. They agreed, for example, that none would become involved in the grinding of flour at the abbey mill, rendering its operation stale. They would also, as they could best foresee, look at ways of renting out land away from the abbot under their own steam, casting flies into the ointment of any fresh economic plans he might have been working on. When Abbot Peter looked to punish them in return, they refused to acknowledge his authority to do so and demanded a trial by a jury made up of their neighbours and peers; something which would virtually guarantee their acquittal.
In 1336, the villagers combined again, this time to approach the Chester Justice with a claim that, due to an ancient Royal Charter which guaranteed their local rights and privileges, the abbey’s actions over the preceding half century had all been in ill faith, if not outright illegal. Returning home after the hearing, their complaint refused again, they then instructed a delegation to meet directly with the king whilst he was travelling across the region.
Rounded up and imprisoned in Nottingham, the villagers were released when they somehow managed to pay a fine. And it is here our real questions start. You have to wonder just how were a group of locals from small, rural Cheshire communities managing to do all of this; mustering, travelling, and pursuing official routes of legal recourse? Not to mention having the financial clout to pay the fines that came their way in the process. It is inconceivable that the group would have had anything like the finances to pursue such campaigns alone, and even if they did, to have the influence and power to be taken seriously?
No, a common cause may have united them, but somewhere, someone of considerable means was deliberately directing events. Who this person was is a question we might better consider when we arrive at the most astonishing stage of the feud, and a series of events unrivalled in our local history for their sheer jaw-dropping audacity.
A Murderous Journey
From the custumal of 1327 and its resulting fallout, the feud between Vale Royal and the locals roared on unabated. Petitions, refusals, assertions of rights, and attempts at retribution litter the record deep into the 1330s. This is an England fraught with fear of uprising, at continued war with Scotland, and about to embark on the conflict with France that would come to be known as the Hundred Years War. It is against this backdrop that the events of 1336 played out.
Abbot Peter had been in-situ for more than 15 years, and animosity on both sides was at an all-time high. It was at this point that further significant events took place that would ramp up the toxicity of the stand-off once more. In early 1336 the abbot had moved to deny the villagers of Over rights of burrage in the newly chartered local borough. Creation of burrage plots was the process of formally inclosing land around the villages, with this subdivision then in turn allowing new rights and workings to be extended upon it. It would seem the abbot had taken it upon himself to formally confiscate land that was still in dispute with the locals or, at the very least, deny them any ability to rent it out from the abbey directly.
Either way, it was a further slight to any lingering notions of power the locals may have still harboured. In large part, to rent a burrage, a tenant would need to be acknowledged as a ‘freeman’; something that would be in direct opposition to the villein status deferred onto the locals and which the abbey constantly relied on when finding itself the subject of legal challenge; a process that Abbot Peter was more than comfortable in undertaking.
He was, by all accounts, a studious and meticulous man. Besides the issuing of the custumal, he is also believed to have been the guiding light behind the creation of the Ledger Book of Vale Royal, an internal chronicle from which so much history of the period has come to be drawn. Not only does the ledger chart a history of the abbey but contains within it a useful compendium of pleas, evidence, bulls, and grants charting the later medieval period at breadth. It is in the ledger that we find many of the recordings made regarding the actions of the villagers and, in turn, the abbey’s response.
Whilst naturally vital to our understanding, we must remember that such works are duty-bound to contain a healthy degree of bias. It is the fact that the ledger is so comparatively open to read irrespective of this that makes it the gem it is.
June 1336 brought a fresh opportunity for Abbot Peter to deal a blow to his tormentors. Visiting King Edward III at his hunting lodge in King’s Cliffe, Rutland, he appealed directly for assistance in his subjection of local disquiet back in Cheshire. As he left the meeting in the late evening, passing through the village of Exton with his groom, he would have been beginning his journey home no doubt hopeful of positive outcomes regarding the conversations that he had undertaken that day with the king. It would have been quite the shock then, when looking up in the fading light, he spotted on the road ahead the very band of locals he had been telling Edward about earlier that day.
More than one hundred miles from home, the gang had been lying in wait for him all day. Studying their faces at a distance, looking for signs as to their intentions, the abbot’s gaze would have been drawn to the specific figure of a man he had come to know intimately across the timeline of his struggle, a landowner from Cheshire to which he had recently issued legal proceedings - William de Venables of Bradwall.
The Venables’ were a proud Cheshire family. Beginning their line in England at the point of the Norman Conquest with Gilbert de Venables, they had been created Barons of Kinderton during the late eleventh century, as the Earl of Chester looked to start afresh following the destruction of the Harrying. William de Venables, now holding lands stemming from an inheritance he received during the 1280s, effectively a second stem of the Baronial family line, was a powerful and notable foe.
Before the abbot had time to comprehend what was unfolding before him, an arrow cut through the air and sunk into the chest of his groom, William Fynche. The rebels had done the unthinkable, and it seems de Venables himself was just as shocked as Abbot Peter at the sight, as upon seeing Fynche dying on the grass, he turned and fled in panic. The abbot, not one to shy away from a physical confrontation any more than he was a legal one, held his staff tightly and braced himself as the rebels rushed toward him. Just as he began to swing his staff in defence, the sound of hooves thundered up along the road behind him.
It was Walter le Walche (Walter the Welsh), cellarer of Vale Royal, who had been temporarily delayed with some other servants prior to the abbot’s departure. Racing at full speed to the abbot’s aid, the fiery monk charged into the rebel group, sword drawn, the ledger book recording how le Walche;
…charged in like a champion sent from God to protect his house and his father and felled those sacrilegious men to the earth, and left all those whom he found in that place half dead, according to the law of the Lord.
In the chaos that followed, the rebels found themselves being chased down by the abbot’s men; but all was not lost. Suddenly joined by a party of Rutland locals, they then turned back toward the abbot, overwhelming him and his party. The group then marched the abbot and his servants on to the nearby town of Stanford, in order to seek the council of the king themselves. Quite what they were expecting to happen once there is unclear, but next morning, the abbot and his men were duly released, whilst those that had brought them to heel were in-turn placed in chains.
In the immediate aftermath, supporting detail appears to have been given to the king concerning the entrenched, mitigating factors of the feud, as incredibly, the rebels were soon released themselves, together with an order for Abbot Peter to return to them any goods he had taken from them in the run-up to the skirmish. The incident raises again some serious questions as to the method of the organisation behind the rebel group. To have been able to track the abbot across country, substantial assistance and provision would have been required. One hundred miles is at least a four-day trip by horse. That's four days of food and water for a group of six men and their horses.
Furthermore, they will have needed to be guided, literally, to know precisely where the abbot would be on the night of the attack. The sudden arrival of locals to help their plight would too suggest a strong local connection somewhere in the background.
The naming of de Venables might help us in our pursuit of understanding, the ledger book sharing two key accounts concerning the de Venables family from the time of the fight at Exton. First is a direct reference to the killing of the abbot’s groom and of how de Venables fled the scene, where we are told that William;
…took to flight and did not dare to stay his foot till he came to parts of Cheshire, and he abandoned those he brought with him, and never looked behind him.
Combined with the following recording of legal action concerning the de Venables family in an evidence entry of 1337, we can start to get a real feeling for the situation at hand;
Be it remembered that in the year of our Lord 1337, in the vill of Merton, this agreement was made between the abbot and convent of Vale Royal on the one part and Thomas de Venables, son of William de Venables, on the other part, in the presence of Monsieur Hugh de Venables, Sir John de Arderne and Sir Periz de Thornton and others. Whereas the said Thomas challenged and claimed for himself and Aleyne, his wife, inheritance belonging to the land which he held in the lordship of Budworthe, next the pool of Darnhale in consequence of the overflow of the water on his land aforesaid, a fishery which he has used for a long while by force and arms, contrary to peace. And it was thereupon agreed between the parties that the abbot should take an oath with five of his counsel that he had done no wrong to the said Thomas, but had used his right in the manor of Darnhale, belonging to his church of Vale Royal, as the king had given to him and his predecessors, abbots of that place, at the first foundation of their abbey.
And after this the said Thomas offered to the abbot £20 for his amends. And likewise, the said Thomas de Venables solemnly took his oath that never, with nets or in any other way, would he fish in the abbot's pool of Darnhale, however much the water might overflow, and would do no other harm to the abbot or his people, either himself or through his people. And whereas the said Thomas had wounded John de Eynesham, monk of Vale Royal, and had taken from him and from his servants bows, arrows, swords and other things contrary to right, he pledged him 100s for his amends, and would give him a suitable bow with the arrows belonging, or a sole sparrow-hawk. And also the said Thomas pledged half a mark to John Hele, whom he had beaten against the peace…and the knights above named, that is to say, Monsieur Hugh, Sir John and Sir Periz, who came with the said Thomas de Venables, undertook that the said Thomas should keep these covenants in all things, and if not then the said lords will utterly cease to maintain the said Thomas, and will maintain the said abbot against him.
This action ‘being remembered’ in 1337 would suggest this came to pass after the events in Rutland took place. In it, we learn of how (spoiler warning) yet another dispute between long-held rights, in this case, the fishing rights of Darnhall, were being contested between a local man - Thomas de Venables, son of the William mentioned in our Rutland attack - and the abbey.
Petty? Maybe, but let us look at the severity of the address granted; a fine issued against de Venables and oaths taken by witnesses confirming that they would side with Abbot Peter in future disputes over the issue. We also learn that Thomas de Venables had apparently wounded another servant from the abbey and stolen his weapons, and had also beaten a man called John Hele. Taken together, this information places the de Venables family squarely at the heart of the local rebellion. The son, an infamous local figure for the abbey’s ongoing concern, and the father personally present at the killing of the abbot’s groom in Rutland.
By 1337 then, we have a picture fast coming into focus of how long, tired and bitter feuds between the local gentry and the abbey have turned into open violence, with the de Venables family of Bradwall at centre stage. William de Venables appears to have been the man that had mustered locals to journey across the breadth of England to attack the abbot on his return from Kings Cliffe in 1336, and now a year later, an agreement is being made before the local justice regarding the fining of his son Thomas, who by all accounts seems quite the handful himself. Likely, the wording of the action against Thomas would have been intended to mark an end to the disagreements, but as we will see, the campaign against Abbot Peter was far from over.
In the same year, we see just how broad a distance the abbot’s trials had taken him when a situation arose between a Sir William de Clifton, connected to Kirkham in North Yorkshire, and the priory of the same name, which had been brought into Vale Royal’s concern toward the end of the previous century. A dispute had broken out regarding Abbot Peter’s refusal to sell the rights of tithe collection to de Clifton in respect of the village of Wetsby; a hotly contested corner of the priory’s Yorkshire estate. To spite the priory, and therefore Vale Royal, de Clifton had deliberately let the produce stored in the Wetsby tithe barn waste away and rot, setting out the priory’s share in a local rectors cart, where it sat in the middle of a field for a month as his tenants chased off anyone who attempted to collect it. Furthermore, he vigorously contested any attempts by the abbey to punish any tenants that had carried out actions on his orders, personally beating a servant of the priory before a crowd at Preston and being excommunicated as a result.
The depth of the abbot’s notoriety in Cheshire was not, it seems, without its refractions in both Lancashire and Yorkshire too, such was the realm of the abbey’s estates. The cauldron of vitriol that was boiling away concerning the abbot and his mission was reaching its climax, and in the last year of the decade, it would finally explode.