St. Oswald and the Church of Worcester/Appendix A

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It is a perilous task for one who has not been trained in the modern school of Anglo-Saxon diplomatics to undertake such an examination as here follows. My apology must be that no one, so far as I am aware, has faced the problem of Oswald's reform from the point of view of the authenticity of the charter evidence in regard to what existed at Worcester before his time. I shall gladly welcome correction in detail; but I have an impression that a wider knowledge will only strengthen the case which I have endeavoured to put. It is only since this Note was written that I have seen the instructive article by Mr. W. H. Stevenson on the so-called 'Trinoda necessitas' in the English Historical Review for October 1914, and also Mr. F. M. Stenton's article in the same Review for October 1918 on ( The Supremacy of the Mercian Kings '. I have learnt much from both of these articles, and have made one or two references to them in my foot-notes.


B. C. S. 165. Æthilbald to Osred. Cold-Aston and Netgrove, co. Gloucester. 716 x 743.

This charter is accepted by Mr. W. H. Stevenson.[1]

It is to be noted, however, that the mention of St Mary's only comes in a sentence inserted before the signatures: Haec autem testamenti traditio perpetualiter posted tradita est sanctae Mariae Uueogernensis monasterii pro ipsius regis salute. This obviously is no part of the original charter, and may have been added at quite a late date.

The bounds are dated 743, at the end in Anglo-Saxon. The statement that Ethilbald booked the land Utele bisceope into sancte Marian is unintelligible as it stands. There may be some confusion with Utel, bishop of Hereford (c. 798), and St Mary of Hereford.


B. C. S. 204. Uhtred regulus. Stoke. 770.

This charter is rejected as spurious by Stevenson. It follows the original Worcester charter of Uhtred (B. C. S. 203) almost verbatim with the necessary changes. But it corrects the Latin: adding et after itaque; writing terreni for terrigenis; and putting an accusative after praeter, instead of an ablative; changing cessat into cesset, and ante ea into antea. Moreover in the attestation it gives to Bishop Mildred the phrase pia del dispensation, which is given in the genuine charter to Uhtred, and, on the contrary, gives to Uhtred Christi gratia concedente, which is there given to Bishop Mildred. Its boundaries are given at great length, in contrast to the seven words of those of the genuine charter.

In Domesday Book the church holds Stoke with two berewicks, Easton and Bedindon, ten hides in all (= X tributariorum of the charter). Now in the genuine grant (B. C. S. 203) Uhtred gives land V tributariorum at Easton to his minister Ethelmund, with reversion after two heirs to the church of Worcester. The forged grant was an attempt to make out of the wording of this a gift of Stoke (including Easton), in the very same year, fratribus deo servientibus in monasterio Uuigornensi quod constructum est in honore sanctissimae virginis et matris domini nostri Ihesu Christi Mariae.

It may further be noted that this forged Stoke charter is the second of a group of 13 charters (beginning with Cropthorne, on f. 142 of the MS. [Hearne, p. 319]), which have been misplaced in binding. If we go on to f. 173 [Hearne, p. 391], we find Incipit praefatio huius libelli, and after this preface Incipiunt capituli istius codicelli. 1. De Croppathorne. 2. De Stoke, &c. The Cropthorne charter of King Offa is recognized as a forgery by Stevenson and others. It would be interesting to know how many of these thirteen are in better case.


B. C. S. 205. Uhtred subregulus. Shipston. n.d.

This charter also is marked by Stevenson as spurious. But it is of a very different character. The forger is a stylist, though weak in grammar, as is shown by his opening words: Appropinquantem mundi terminum … declaratur. He has apparently used the genuine charter (B. C. S. 203): but he makes many changes. Thus Uhtred is subregulus instead of regulus, and in the attestation Offa is made to say: mei ducis postulatione. He exaggerates in the phrase ex immensis donationibus, and speaks not only of God as the giver, but also of domini mei piissimi regis Merciorum. For in usus aecclesiasticae libertatis he says in usus ecclesiasticae necessitudinis; and for in mensam eorum he says ad propriam mensurae participationem mensae illorum. In the attestation we find vexillum sacratissimae crucis Christi and signum mirabile beatae crucis, elaborate phrases which by themselves suffice to raise grave suspicion at this period.

The grant is of land iiarum mansionum iugera continentem (a strange phrase) quae iacet iuxta fluvium qui dicitur Stur, ad vadum nomine Scepesuuasce.

In Domesday Book the church holds two hides at Scepwestun.

This charter is no. 3 in the codicellus referred to above.

The grant is made ad aecclesiam beatae semper virginis dei genetricis Mariae quae sita est in Uuegerna civitate, ubi corpora patrum meorum digne condiuntur. Compare B. C. S. 183, the doubtful charter of his brother Eanberht, which speaks of St Peter's as the church ubi corpora parentum nostrorum quiescunt. (That is a grant of Tredingctun … iuxta fluvium qui dicitur Stuur.)


B. C. S. 223. Offa to Aldred. Sedgebarrow: Aldred to St Mary's. 778 (for 777).

This charter Mr. Stevenson classifies among those in which he sees ' some definite reason for believing the document to be genuine'. It still existed at Worcester when Hickes was dean : see his Thesaurus I. 170 f., where a transcript of it is given. It is primarily a charter of King Offa, granting Sedgebarrow to his subregulus Aldred. After the signatures is added a grant by Aldred regulus to St Mary's. We need not question Mr. Stevenson's acceptance of King Offa's charter. We are only concerned with Aldred's postscript, as to which he has expressed no separate judgement.

1. This postscript begins: Nunc ergo ego Aldredus domino dispensante Huicciorum regulus. But Aldred regularly styles himself subregulus, as indeed Offa calls him in this very charter. The only other place in which he describes himself as regulus is in B. C. S. 232, where we find Ego Aldredus meam munificentiam corroborans, &c. But this is a grant by Uhtred, not by Aldred; and Aldredus is a mere scribal error for Uhtredus in the attestation.

2. At the end we read: et hoc cum subscriptione principum meorum muniendo munio. But the three witnesses are praefecti, not principes; and the duplication muniendo munio seems to have no parallel in such a connexion in charters of the period.

3. The attestation begins thus: Ego Aldredus regulus Huicciorum propriam meam donationem signo crucis notavi. The phrase signo crucis notavi does not appear to occur again in any charter. In the very doubtful charter of his brother Eanberht (B. C. S. 183) we have signum salutiferae crucis praenotavi. In the Act of the council of Clovesho in 803 (B. C. S. 312) we find signum notavi: but only in copies, not in the original document. In the tenth century we have partial parallels: as notavi alone in two charters of King Athelstan to Exeter (B. C. S. 724, 726, both questionable); regno (for signo) salubri adnotavi, King Edred (B. C. S. 880); signo salutifero … prenotavi, King Edgar (B. C. S. 1112); sigillum sancte crucis annotavi, King Ethelred (K. C. D. 684); and, what is most notable, Oswald, in attesting King Ethelred's charters, though not in his own, constantly uses the phrase crucis taumate adnotavi (K. C. D. 639, 647, 648, 650, 652, 655, 657, 658, 659, 663, 673). Lastly, in a questionable charter of Edward the Confessor, A.D. 1060, we have in Bishop Wulstan's attestation vexillo sanctae crucis praenotavi (K. C. D. 809). Our parallels, therefore, so far as they are trustworthy, come exclusively from the tenth century.

4. There follow the names of three praefecti, introduced in each case by signum manus, as are the later names of Offa's charter. In Uhtred's charter (B. C. S. 232), already referred to, these three praefecti follow Eadbald princeps, who is the last witness of Offa's charter here. If this postscript is not genuine, we may suppose that they originally stood at the end of Offa's charter, and have been treated as the principes of Aldred by the forger (though still styled praefecti).

5. Finally, we have the dating of the charter after these last witnesses, whereas we should have expected it before the witnesses of Offa's charter. The year is not in agreement with the indiction and the other notes of time, being a year too late. Both Kemble and Birch, working from two chartularies, give it as DCCLXXVIII; Hickes, however, who transcribed the Worcester charter, gives DCCLXXIIIII (sic). The year pointed to by the indiction is A.D. 777.

Accordingly, it seems reasonable to conclude that a genuine charter of King Offa was copied or imitated by a forger, who inserted a grant by Aldred of the land in question to the church of St Mary at Worcester; making the three praefecti who closed Offa's attestation into the principes of Aldred's grant, and placing the date at the end of the whole piece.


B. C. S. 226. Offa to St Mary's. Ductun & Esig. n.d.

On this charter Mr. Stevenson expresses no opinion.[2]

It is verbally the same as B. C. S. 210, Offa's grant of lands to Ridda with reversion to the monastery of Breodun, only the necessary variations being made.

For ad monasterium vocabulo æt Breodune we have ad monasterium sanctae Mariae vocabulo Ƿeogerna Ceastre.

The bounds in B.C.S. 210 are given briefly and in Latin. Here, however, they are much fuller and in Anglo-Saxon.

The witnesses are with one exception the same in both documents.

There is thus little to help us to distinguish between these two charters as regards the question of genuineness. But it is important to observe that the church of Worcester showed another charter for the five hides at Esig in Gloucestershire, viz. B. C. S. 487, a grant of King Burgred in the next century, A.D. 855. This is somewhat inconsistent with the grant of King Offa c. A.D. 775.

We cannot, therefore, regard this charter (B. C. S. 226) as affording any solid evidence of the existence of St Mary's church in the eighth century. It is almost certainly a forgery based on B. C. S. 210.


B.C.S. 231. Offa and Aldred to St Mary's. Geate. n.d.

This is a duplicate, mutatis mutandis, of B. C. S. 246, a grant to the monastery of Clive, co. Gloucester, which is accepted by Mr. Stevenson; but he regards the present charter as doubtful.[3]

In the inserted passage, qua eandem æcclesiam Æthilbaldus rex avo meo Eanulfo conscripsit, we seem to have a confusion with the church of Breodun, which in B. C. S. 234 and 236 is ascribed to this Eanulf, grandfather of Offa, as its founder. The passage, which is unintelligible as it stands, is nearly identical with a passage in B. C. S. 273, where also it is followed by the clause tamdiu fides Christiana apud Anglos in Brittania maneat. This clause is also found in B. C. S. 236 (just mentioned); but otherwise not in any charter of the eighth century.

The three charters B. C. S. 231, 236, 273, are thus closely connected; and the least trustworthy of the three seems to be B. C. S. 231.

This charter is one of those transcribed in Smith's Bede; but it is said to have been of later date than King Offa's time: see Hearne, Heming, p. 592. It is rejected by Kemble, and marked as doubtful by Stevenson.


B. C. S. 233. Offa to the monks of St Mary's. Broadwas. n.d.

This is marked as spurious by Stevenson.

It is granted monachis sanctae Mariae Guigornensis æcclesiae, and is followed by a Saxon form, from which perhaps it was derived; but in this form the grant is made 'to the minster at Worcester for the use of the brethren', no mention being made of monks or of St Mary's.


B.C.S. 240. Offa to St Mary's. Iccomb, in exchange for Sapey. 781.

On this Mr. Stevenson has pronounced no judgement.[4] It is rejected by Kemble. Its witnesses are the same as those of B. C. S. 239, Offa's grant of lands to St Peter's at Worcester; and its wording at the close is similar. It also has points in common with B. C. S. 236, and with the spurious charter B. C. S. 235. None of these charters are of good repute.

The mention of fures illos quos Saxonice dicimus uuergeldtheouas is suspicious. Other notices relating to Iccomb and to Sapey seem hard to reconcile with the exchange spoken of in this charter. Of Sapey we learn (Hearne, Heming, p. 255) that Beorhtheah, the bishop from 1033 onwards, granted it to his brother-in-law, and thus it became alienated, ultimately being granted to St Evroul. Iccomb, on the other hand, is said (ibid., p. 406) to have been given to the church by Earl Ælfgar, when Wulstan was prior: cf. p. 370, where it is said to have been given in Harold's time.

It is clear, therefore, that nothing can be built on the evidence of this charter.

This completes our review of the evidence for the existence of St Mary's in the eighth century. We need have no hesitation in dismissing it as quite worthless. After this point we have not the help of Mr. Stevenson's judgements.


B.C.S. 433. Berhtuulf to Heaberht, bishop of Worcester, and the monks of St Mary's. Mitton: one manse. Christmas Day, 841.

This charter seems so colourless and even, that it is difficult at first sight to judge of its genuineness. The only striking feature is the invocation of the Nine Orders of Angels: but this offers us the needed clue. For not only does this recur in the next charter (B. C. S. 434), but we find on comparison that the whole of the wording of the former charter is contained in the latter, which is three times its length, with the exception of the description of the property and of the grantees. B. C. S. 434 is a grant of privileges by the same king to the monastery of Breodun: it is fantastic in style and full of grammatical blunders, therein corresponding with other charters of Berhtuulf (B. C. S. 428, 450, 453, 454). There can be no doubt that our charter is abbreviated from this.

The date, given in the same words, has been placed at the beginning, instead of coming before the signatures; and there is no prooemium. This in itself is suspicious. The witnesses differ only in order and spelling, save that there are added three duces and four ministri. The title minister is unusual, if not unknown, in genuine Mercian charters, though it was common in Wessex and Kent. Exceptions are B. C. S. 137, 245, 296, 349, 351, 514; but the second and third of these are quite untrustworthy, and we cannot firmly rely on any of the rest.

The one clause which is not taken from B. C. S. 434 is: Heaberhto episcopo quandam ruris particulam, mansam scilicet unam, in villa quam ruricolae Myttun appellant, monachis videlicet sanctae Mariae ƿigornensis aecclesiae perfruendum et possidendum iugiter usque in aevum. The description of the land has no parallel in other charters of Berhtuulf. The monks of St Mary's may once more be dismissed as an anachronism.

We learn from the Domesday Survey that one hide at Mitton went with the Manor of Breordun: it had been alienated, and was recovered by Archbishop Wulstan after the Conquest.


B. C. S. 462. Beorhtuulf. Grimley to St Mary's. 851.

This charter is soon disposed of. The introduction of Dathan and Abiron into the guarding clause seems to occur in no charters except B.C.S. 1135, the forged charter of Edgar to Worcester, and B. C. S. 1178, the charter of Edgar to Croyland as given by 'Ingulf'.

The attestation is made up of the names of the king and Bishop Alhun, followed by a list taken from B. C. S. 357, Coenuulf's charter of 816: the two other bishops thus introduced had been dead about thirty years.


B. C. S. 541. Ceoluulf to the monks of St Mary's. Overburg. 875.

The opening and closing portions of this charter are found with slight variation in B. C. S. 540. There we read: rogatus a ƿerfriðo antestite Huicciorum et familia in Uueogernacestre, istam libertatem … donavi. Here, however, we have the clumsy combination: rogatus a Werfrido episcopo Wiciorum et familia in Wigornacestre, concessi monachis deo famulantibus in monasterio Wigornensi quod constructum est in honore sanctae et perpetuae matris et virginis Mariae.

The witnesses of B. C. S. 540 reappear in B. C. S. 541, with the exception of Deorlaf episcopus: but a number of other names are added in the latter charter. Three of these raise suspicion: Alhferht dux, Kyred, Wulsige; for they seem really to represent Ealfrith, bishop of Winchester, Ceorred or Ceolred, bishop of Leicester, and Wulfsige, another bishop, all of whom attest charters of this period.

This charter is one of those which come from the codicellus already spoken of: and it is plain that no weight can be attached to its evidence, either for monks or for St Mary's church at this period.


B. C. S. 578 is a Canterbury memorandum to the effect that King Alfred gave certain lands at Rotherhithe to Archbishop Plegmund and Bishop Werfrith. The words which concern us are: unum archiepiscopo Doroberniae Plegemundo et successoribus eius ad opus ecclesie Christi et monachorum: alterum vero Werefrido ad ecclesiam sanctae Mariae Wigoracensem. But B. C. S. 577 gives a better form of the same memorandum, in which we read unum archiepiscopo Plegmundo ad ecclesiam Christi, alteram Uuerfrido ad ecclesiam Uuigornacensem.

We need not discuss the authenticity of the grant. We may note, however, how easily the mention of St Mary's may be inserted by a copyist.


B. C. S. 616. Bishop Werfrith to Abbot Cynelm. 10 manses at Bengeworth. 907.

Here we have the clause: et sciat quicunque hanc terram teneat cotidie elemosinam faciendam pro anima Burhredi regis et Alhuni episcopi, qui hanc terram donaverunt deo et sancte Mariae ad ecclesiam in Uueogernacestre. The clause is unlikely in itself to be genuine; and in B. C. S. 235 the 10 manses at Bengeworth are said to have been given by King Offa in 780. It is followed by the statement that the grant is made in 907 with leave of King Alfred, who, however, had been dead seven or eight years; and the signatures are not of Bishop Werfrith's time, but correspond with those of charters of 849-55 (B. C. S. 455, 490).

Older materials may perhaps have been worked up in this charter: but as it stands it is a particularly clumsy forgery.

We conclude that the ninth century offers us no more tangible evidence than the eighth century of a church of St Mary or of a community of monks at Worcester.


B.C.S. 665. Athelstan to St Mary's. Aust on Severn. 929.
B. C. S. 666. Athelstan to St Mary's. Eaton on Cherwell. 929.

These two charters must be considered together, on account of the similarity in their date and attestation:

Scripta est haec cartula anno dominicae incarnationis dccccxxviiii, ac sexto regno Æþelstani regis, Christo Ihesu gubernante, renovando in melius cum senatorum signaculo confirmavit.
✠ Æþelstan rex sceptris fretus regalibus hanc cartam signavit cum manibus.

✠ Ƿulfhelm archiepiscopus cum ceteris præsulibus.

✠ Ælƿino . Ƿeodredo . Fryeðestano . Sigehelmo . ƿynsigio . Beornheho . Eadgaro . Ælfhæho . Odano . consignavit.

✠ Osferð comes cum ducibus ac ceteris optimatibus . Ælfƿaldo (and 16 others) consignavit.

    Rodepard quoque archipræsul cum Eboracensis suffraganeis . Æscber'h'to . ƿigredo . Earnulfo . Columbano . consignavit.

So in B. C. S. 665: the only difference in B. C. S. 666 is that the attestation is broken off after the word optimatibus.

We begin by noting the date. The evidence of Athelstan's charters points on the whole to the commencement of his reign on Dec. 25, 924. His sixth year, therefore, began Dec. 25, 929. If these charters are genuine, they were issued in the last week of 929. If they are not genuine, we may suppose that the compiler simply reckoned from the statement of the Worcester copy of the A.-S. Chronicle, which placed Athelstan's accession in 924, though the Winchester copy in its corrected form gave 925.

The phrase renovando in melius is intelligible in B. C. S. 665, which is intended as a confirmation—ut firmior esset stabilitas; but it is meaningless in B. C. S. 666.

Confirmavit. Each of these charters appears again in the latter part of the MS. of Heming's Register, and in a modified form. We note that in each case confirmavit is altered into confirmata. The references in Hearne's edition are pp. lll and 434 for B. C. S. 665; pp. 67 and 379 for B. C. S. 666. We have already observed that this Register is a composite document.

Sceptris fretus regalibus. It is hardly conceivable that a genuine charter of King Athelstan should contain this phrase in the attestation. In charters of King Edgar, however, we find regali fretus dignitate, not indeed in the attestation, but in the body of the document (B. C. S. 1056, 1151).

Signavit cum manibus. This again is a phrase which raises suspicion. Lastly, the addition of Archbishop Rodeward and the 'suffragans' of York is an astonishing feature. B. C. S. 666 does not go on to this point, but in the later forms of both charters the reviser has put Rodwald into his normal position. Of these 'suffragans' Æscberht attests charters from 930 to 934, and Wired (of Chester-le-Street) generally attests with him. But Earnulf and Columbanus are otherwise unknown. The grouping of names in the attestation has no parallel in the Worcester documents. It may be for this reason that the reviser attempts to normalize the attestation in the later forms. We may suppose that the compiler had based his forgeries on some charter in the Register of another house, such as that of Burton-on-Trent, where abbreviations of this kind were in use.

After this preliminary survey we need not spend much time on the further details of each charter: but some points deserve notice.

In B. C. S. 665 the prooemium Variante iam temporum statu, &c., is closely parallel in sense, though not in wording, to that of B. C. S. 1052 (attributed to King Edgar): Vacillante practicae vitae statu, &c. This prooemium also introduces surget gens contra gentem, a text which is found in several charters of the end of the tenth century (B.C.S. 1085, 1095, 1099, 1113, 1115, 1125, 1216).

The interesting phrase totius Albionis, though frequent at a later period, cannot be found in any charter of Athelstan which is certainly genuine.

Benevolentibus autem et augentibus and tradentur in manus gladii do not seem to occur in the guarding clauses of any other charters.

When we turn to B. C. S. 666, we are able to trace its language in other charters of the Worcester collection. The prooemium, indeed, is quite extraordinary, and to its odd phrases there seem to be no parallels. We may note, however, that evangelicum paradigma has occurred in the prooemium of B. C. S. 665.

Ut aliquid ex percepti mundanis regni distributions … quamvis minus dignum ad ecclesiasticae liberalitatis servitium expenderim. This is phraseology of King Offals time; the very mistakes, mundanis for mundani, and liberalitatis for libertatis, are but repetitions: see B.C.S. 202-5, 210, 226, 231, 239, 246, 251: several of these charters are forgeries, but based on genuine models.

But the charter chiefly drawn upon is King Burhred^s grant of the same property to Bishop Alhun (B. C. S. 509). From this comes the ungrammatical phrase Eatun iuxtaflumine Cearƿellan. And the whole of the guarding clause, Pax servantibus, &c., is taken from this charter. Accordingly, we can have no hesitation in dismissing both these charters (B. C. S. 665, 666) as spurious.


B. C. S. 700. Athelstan to Worcester monastery. Clifton-uponTeme. 930.

This is marked by Kemble as spurious, and no one will question his decision.

The reference to Anlaf—tropheum ex Anolafo rege Norannorum, qui me vita et regno privare disponit—is an anachronism: for Anlaf's legendary attempt on Athelstan's life on the night before Brunanburh was still seven years in the future. Historical references of this kind are almost invariably signs of forgery.

The date is given as ' 930 in the sixth year of Athelstan's reign'; but the indiction and epact belong to 934: see on this point the next charter.


B.C.S. 701. Athelstan to St Mary's. Wastill, Cofton, &c. 7 June, 930.

This again is rejected by Kemble. Its dating at once arouses suspicion: Anno dominicae incarnationis DCCCCXXX, regni vero mihi commissi VI, Indictione VII, Epacta III, Concurrente II, Septimis lunii idibus, luna XXI°.

Here 930 corresponds with the sixth year of the reign, but all the other terms apply to 934. Moreover, Wulfstan's attestation as archbishop of York agrees with the later date. It is a curious fact that B. C. S. 703 [cf. 1344], a grant of Athelstan to St Peter's at York, has the same confusion of dates. We may remember that from 972 to 1023 the archbishops of York were also bishops of Worcester Oswald, Aldulf, Wulfstan: so that the connexion between the two churches may have been intimate during the whole of this period. Our charter is said to have been issued at London; but the York charter is dated on the same day at Nottingham.

There are other grounds for the rejection of this charter; but we need only mention here the odd phrase Britannicae gentis in the description of the king's title.

We conclude, therefore, that not one of the four charters in which Athelstan is represented as making grants to Worcester has any claim to be considered as genuine. Accordingly the supposed evidence for the existence of a church of St Mary and for a community of monks at Worcester before the time of St Oswald disappears entirely when critically investigated.

  1. Mr. Stevenson's judgements on some of the early Worcester charters are recorded by Mr. C. H. Turner in his Early Worcester MSS., pp. xxxii ff.
  2. Mr. F. M. Stenton regards it as 'suspicious' (E. H. K. xxxiii. 448f).
  3. Probably spurious/ Stenton, l. c., p. 445.
  4. In E. H. R. xxix. 697, however, he regards it as having been falsified: and Mr. Stenton, ibid, xxxiii. 444, speaks of it as 'either spurious or remodelled'.