15. CHARTERS AND WRITS
(A) Offa, king of Mercia: Grant to Worcester Cathedral
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns throughout all time! I,
Offa. for the health of my soul and the souls of my relatives after my death
and the soul of my son Egfrith, give to [the church of] Worcester this land at
Westbury with all that lawfully pertains to it: namely, sixty hides, and in
another place, at Hanbury, twenty hides. [And this land is] lawfully to remain
with the same endowment of liberty in all things as when King Aethelbald
earlier bestowed it on my grandfather, Eanulf.... In the name of Almighty God
we command that it shall be free from all power of kings and princes, or of
their subordinates, with the exception of these dues, that is to say, the rent
(gafol) at Westbury: two tuns of clear ale, a coomb of mild
ale, a coomb of Welsh ale, seven oxen, six wethers, forty cheeses,
... thirty ambers of rye corn, and four ambers of meal at the
king's manor (ad regalem vicum). This, with the advice and consent of my
prelates and counsellors, has accordingly been determined by firm covenant: no
royal, princely, or secular official shall in the future, by demands great or
small, either through force or through requisition, exact anything from them on
account of [this] our inheritance, with the sole exception of what is specified
in this present charter.
These are the witnesses....
(Latin and Anglo-Saxon) Thorpe, Diplomatarium, pp.
(B) Aethelred, Alderman of Mercia: Grant to the
Monastery of Berkeley (883)
... Wherefore I, Aethelred, alderman, by the heartening grace of God
endowed and enriched with a portion of the Mercian realm,[4 ]for love
of God, for the remission of my guilt and sin, for the prayers of the abbot and
the congregation [of monks] at Berkeley, and on behalf of all Mercia, free them
forever of the gafol which they still have to pay into the king's hand,
[namely,] from that part of the king's feorm that has
remained obligatory, whether in clear ale, in beer, in honey, in cattle, in
swine, or in sheep. And this I have done for the sake of their godly prayers,
and also because they have granted to me in perpetuity a certain portion of
their land, that is to say, twelve hides at Stoke. Furthermore, they have given
me 30 mancuses of gold so that I shall also free the monastery from
all dues (gafolum) to which the lord of the people is
entitled, great or small, known or unknown, except simple compensation
(angilde) to others, and except repair of fortresses
(faestengewerce), military service (fyrdsocne), and repair of
bridges (brycggeweorce). And this I do with the leave and
witness of King Alfred, and with [the counsel of] all the Mercian witan,
both clergy and laity.
Now, moreover, I give that same land at Stoke — namely, twelve
hides — to Cynulf, son of Ceoluht, for 60 mancuses of pure gold, to be
free of all obligations toward king or alderman or reeve: [that is to say,] of
every burden, great or small, except military service, repair of fortresses,
repair of bridges, and simple compensation to others, with naught out for
wite. And we enjoin that no one, either relative or stranger, shall in
any way rob [Cynulf] of it as long as he lives, for he has
deserved it of the Mercian lords through righteous submission [to them].
And we now, in the name of Almighty God, command that this immunity for
the monastery of Berkeley, as described above, and also the gift of land which
we grant to Cynulf for three men's lives, shall continue unimpaired on this
condition, that on the death of Cynulf and his two heirs, without any
controversy, the twelve hides of land at Stoke are to be given in perpetual
alms to the episcopal see of Worcester on behalf of Aethelred, alderman, and of
all the Mercians. Also we beg and implore in the name of the Holy Trinity that,
if there should be any man who with evil intent violates aught that is written
in this charter, he may know that he does so to the displeasure of God and of
all His saints, as well as of all men, both clerical and lay, who can think or
will anything rightful; and that he shall make amends before the throne of the
Eternal Judge if he has not already [in his lifetime] done so with just
reparation to God and man.
Now this munificent grant was made in the year of the Incarnation of the
Lord 883 ... by the consent and attestation of the witnesses whose names are
This land, moreover, is bounded by the following bounds: first from
Hazlewell in Hazledean, then to Woldeswell; from Woldeswell to Sweordes Stone
in Ewcombe; from Ewcombe to Avon's stream; from Avon's stream again up, then to
Ridgeley; from Ridgeley then to Penpau; from Penpau then to Severn's stream;
from Hazlewell again, then to Leadgedelf; from Leadgedelf to Millpool; from
Millpool again to Avon's stream.
(Latin and Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 129 f.
(C) Aethelred, Alderman of Mercia, and his Witan:
Confirmation of a Title to Land (896)
Under the dominion of the Saviour Christ our Lord. After 896 winters had
passed since His birth, then, in that year, ... Aethelred, alderman, called
together all the Mercian witan at Gloucester — bishops, aldermen,
and all his magnates — and this he did with the leave and witness of King
Alfred. And there they took counsel how, in the sight both of God and of the
world, they could most justly rule their people; and [how they] could right
[the wrongs of] many men, whether clerical or lay, whether in the matter of
their lands or of other things that had been withheld from them.
Then Bishop Werferth complained to the witan that he had been
deprived of nearly all the woodland belonging to Woodchester, which King
Aethelbald had given to [the church of] Worcester in perpetual alms, [namely,]
to Bishop Wilferth for mast and wood; and he said that, so far as he could
tell, some of it had been taken at Bisley, some at Avening, some at Sherston,
and some at Thornbury. Then all the witan declared that right should be
done to this church as well as to any other. Whereupon Aethelwald at once
announced that he would not hinder justice, saying that Bishops Aldberht and
Alhhun had earlier been [concerned] about the same [matter], and promising that
he would do his part in giving right to every church. So, with the utmost
graciousness, he yielded to the bishop and bade his geneat,
named Ecglaf, ride with a priest of the Worcestermen (ceastersetna),
named Wulfhun. And he then led him along all the bounds, while he read them to
him from the old charters, as King Aethelbald had earlier bounded
that [woodland] in his grant. Then Aethelwald expressed the wish that the
bishop and the [episcopal] household would kindly allow him to enjoy [the use
of] it while he lived and [grant the same privilege] to Alhmund, his son; [so
that] they might hold it by lease (laen) of [the bishop] and his
household, and neither of them, during the time that God gave them [to live],
would ever deprive [the bishop] of the mast to which he was entitled at
Longridge. And Aethelwald then solemnly declared that only to the displeasure
of God should any one but the lord of the church have that [woodland], saving
[the rights of] Alhmund; and this only on condition that the latter should hold
the same friendly relation with the bishop as he [himself] now held. If,
however, it should happen that Alhmund did not hold that friendly relation, or
if it should be proved that he was not worthy of the land, or, thirdly, if his
end should come, that then the lord of the church should take his land.
Thus the Mercian witan decided in the assembly, directing the
[present] record concerning the land [to be drawn up] for him.[14 ]And
this was done by the witness of Aethelred the alderman and
Aethelflaed; of Aethulf the alderman, Aethelferth the alderman,
Alhelm the alderman, Eadnoth, Alfred, Werferth, Aethelwald the priest, and of
his own kinsmen, Aethelstan and Aethelhun, as well as of his own son,
And thus the priest of the Worcestermen rode it, and with
him Aethelwald's geneat: first to Gemythley, and thence to Rodborough
itself; thence to Smechcombe; thence to Sugley; thence to Hardley, [for which]
there is another name, Dryganley; so to Nailsworth the smaller, and so to
Aethelferth's land. Thus did Aethelwald's man show him the bounds as the old
charters provided and indicated.
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 139 f.
(D) Edgar: Grant to the Bishop of Winchester
Here, in this writing, is made known how King Edgar, with the counsel of
his witan, confirmed the liberties at Taunton for the Holy Trinity, St.
Peter and St. Paul, and the episcopal see of Winchester, as this freedom had
earlier been established by King Edward: granting that men in that vill
(hame) of God, whether two-hundred or twelve-hundred,
should enjoy the same rights as his own men enjoyed in his own royal vills;
that all causes and rights should be given into the hand of God in the same
measure as when they were brought into his own; [that] the [control of] trade
in the vill (tunes cyping) and the income from [all other] rights in the
port should go to the holy see [of Winchester] as they earlier did
in the days of my ancestors, and as they were collected for Bishop Aelfeage and
for each of those who possessed the land. If any one will increase this
liberty, may God increase his welfare during a long life here and in eternity.
If, on the contrary, any one, through insolence and the instigation of the
devil or his limbs, should seek to violate this liberty or to pervert it,
unless he shall make amends before his death, may he with malediction be cut
off from the communion of our Lord and of all His saints, and may he suffer
eternal torment in hell along with Judas, who was Christ's betrayer.
This was done at Cheddar on the holy Eastertide, in which year
968 years had passed since the birth of Christ, and in the tenth
year of the reign [of Edgar], by the witness of the witan whose names
are written below....
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 235 f.
(E) Canute: Grant to St. Paul's, London (1036)
I, King Canute, give friendly greetings to my bishops, my earls,[22
]and all my thegns in the shires where my priests of St. Paul's monastery
hold land. And I make known to you my will that they shall enjoy their
sac and soc, toll and team, within
tide and without tide, as fully and continuously as they best had them in any
king's day, in all things, in borough and out of borough. And I will not permit
any man in any way to do them wrong. And of this the witnesses are Aegelnoth,
archbishop; Aelfric, archbishop; Aelwi, bishop; Aelwine, bishop; Duduc, bishop;
Godwine, earl; Leofric, earl; Osgod Clapa, Thored, and many others.
May God curse him who shall pervert this [grant]!
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 319 f.
(F) Confirmation of a Title to Land in the Shire Court
of Hereford (1036)
Here, in this writing, it is made known that a shire court sat at
Aegelnoth's Stone in the time of King Canute. There sat Aethelstan, bishop;
Ranig, alderman; Edwin, [son] of the alderman; Leofwine, son of Wulfsige; and
Thurcil the White (Hwita). And thither came Tofig the Proud
(Pruda) on the king's errand. And there were Bryning the
sheriff, Aegelweard of Frome, Leofwine of Frome, Godric of Stoke,
and all the thegns of Herefordshire. Then came faring to the court Edwin, son
of Eanwen, and there claimed as against his own mother a portion of land,
namely, Wellington and Cradley. Then the bishop asked who would speak for his
mother. Then Thurcil the White answered, saying that he would if he knew the
defence [that she cared to make]. Since he did not know the defence, three
thegns were chosen from the court [to ride to the place] where she was, and
that was Fawley. These [thegns] were Leofwine of Frome, Aegelsige the Red
(Reada), and Winsige Sceagthman. And when they had come to her, they
asked her about the land which her son claimed. Then she said that she had no
land which in aught belonged to him, and she burst into a noble rage against
her son. Then she called thither her kinswoman Leoflaed, Thurcil's wife, and
before those [present] thus addressed her: "Here sits Leoflaed, my kinswoman,
to whom, after my day, I give both my lands and my gold, both gear and
garments, and all that I possess." After which she said to the thegns: "Do
nobly and well. Announce my message to the court before all the good men,
telling them to whom I have given my land and all my belongings; and [that] to
my own son [I have] never [given] anything. And bid them be witness of this
[gift]." And they then did so, riding to the court and declaring to all the
good men what she had directed them [to say]. Then Thurcil the White stood up
in the court and prayed all the thegns to grant his wife a clean title to all
the lands which her kinswoman had given her, and they did so. And Thurcil then
rode to St. Aethelberht's monastery, with the leave and witness of all the
folk, and caused this [grant] to be set forth in a Christ's
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 336 f.
(G) Edward the Confessor: Grant to Westminster Abbey
I, King Edward, give friendly greeting to Bishop Wulfwig, Earl Gyrth,
and all my thegns of Oxfordshire. And I make known to you that I have granted
to Christ and to St. Peter of Westminster the village where I was born, by name
Islip, and half a hide at Marsh, free of scot and
gafol, with all things thereto pertaining, in wood and in
field, in meadow and in water, with the church and the
church-soke, as full and as complete and as free as it stood under
my own hand, and as Aelfgifa Emma, my mother, gave and bequeathed it to me as a
first gift on my birthday. And I grant them moreover sac and soc,
toll and team, infangenețeof, blodiwte, and
weardwite, hamsocn, forsteall, gryđbryce and
mundbryce, and all the rights which [there] belong to me.
Now I greet well my beloved kinsman, Wigod, at Wallingford, and I bid thee on
my behalf ride around these lands [and put them] into the possession of the
saint; for I will on no account permit any man there to hold any authority,
over anything or at any time, save only the abbot and the brothers for the sake
of the monastery's worthy needs.
And whoever shall firmly hold this [grant in] alms, may God and God's
Mother hold him in everlasting bliss. And whoever shall turn it aside, may he
be turned aside from God to the bitter pains of hell's inmates, unless he the
more painfully shall make amends on this earth.
May God and St. Peter keep you!
(Anglo-Saxon) Ibid., pp. 368 f.
 See above, p. 7, n. 3.
 Certain words at this point are unintelligible.
 In the original the clerk wrote the names of the witnesses,
together with the variety of forms by which they attested the document. Each
witness then added a cross in the appropriate place. The present charter lists
eighteen witnesses, including King Offa, his son, an archbishop, a bishop, four
abbots, and seven aldermen.
 Aethelred was descended from the royal line of Mercia and
still held about half of the old kingdom. His wife was the famous Lady of the
Mercians, Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred.
 The regular name for the payments of food owed the king
from many of his estates.
 See above, p. 24, n. 13.
 Meaning, of course, the king.
 Cf. the similar phrase below, with the addition of "naught
out to wite." As pointed out by Maitland (Domesday Book and
Beyond, pp. 290 f.), the charter implies the grant of a judicial immunity:
the church was to enjoy the profits of justice, including all fines normally
paid to the king, but not including ordinary compensation paid by tenants for
injuries to persons other than the grantee.
 See above, p. 22, n. 7.  The text by error has
 Besides the king and Aethelred, the list includes three
bishops, an abbot, a priest, two aldermen, and eight other persons.
 See above, p. 8, n. 8.
 Since Wulfhun was a priest, it must have been he who read
the charters while Ecglaf showed him the boundaries.
 Presumably the bishop.
 See above, p. 26, n. 4.
 The boundary of the land in question.
 This document exists in two versions, Latin and
Anglo-Saxon. The translation has been made from the latter.
 Cf. Alfred, 39 (above, p. n).
 See above, p. 12, n. 3. In this case the reference is to
the borough of Taunton which, together with all royal rights in market and
court, remained in the hands of the bishop until after the Norman Conquest; see
Round, in Victoria History of Somerset, I, 400 f.
 The text mistakenly reads 978.
 The list includes, besides the king and the queen, the two
archbishops, seven bishops, nine abbots, eight aldermen, and nine thegns.
 These officials henceforth appear in place of the
aldermen; see Chadwick, Studies, ch. v.
 Such phrases as these now become characteristic of all
formal grants of immunity; see Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, pp.
258 f. Sac and soc (more properly sacu and socn)
together meant no more than the latter term alone, which ordinarily in modern
English is given as soke or soken; see above, p. 24, n. 15.
Toll, from the Latin thelonium, has come down to us with the
spelling and the meaning alike unchanged. Team meant vouching to
warranty, or the right to collect the fees for it on one's own land or
elsewhere; see above, p. 4, n. 3.
 The shire-reeve, or sheriff, henceforth attains great
importance in local government as the subordinate of the earl, who normally was
in charge of several shires.
 That is to say, formally recorded by a monastic
 The two words together cover all rents and taxes; see
above, p. 7, n. 3. Scot often appears in eleventh-century documents as
the equivalent of geld; see below, p. 38, n. 2.
 The territory subjected to the jurisdiction of the
Infangenețeof was the right to punish thieves
caught on the property; blodwite the fine for wounding with bloodshed;
weardwite the fine for neglect of guard duty. For the other terms, see
above, pp. 22, 30.