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A JOURNEY FROM OXFORD TO EMBLETON IN 1464.
VIII.—NOTES OF A JOURNEY FROM OXFORD TO
EMBLETON AND BACK IN 1464.
BY EDWARD BATESON.
[Read on the 29th September, 1892.] I RECENTLY had occasion to examine a large number of documents at Merton college, Oxford, bearing upon the history of Embleton, many of which will shortly appear elsewhere. In the course of my search I came across some memoranda written in contracted Latin upon long narrow slips of paper ; the writing being in many places faded and difficult to read. Upon examination it became evident that the memoranda were the rough notes of the daily expenses of a journey of one of the bursars of the college from Oxford to Embleton and back in the
1464. The object of the bursar's journey was no doubt to superintend business connected with the rectorial tithes of the two Northumbrian livings of Embleton and Ponteland, which belonged to Merton college.
Any record of a journey from one end of England to the other at so remote a period must be of great interest, but more especially during the troubled time to which this record refers. For it will be remembered that the battle of Hexham was fought in May, 1464, and the state of affairs was such that in the same year Edward IV. ordered the sheriffs to proclaim that every man from sixteen to sixty should be well and defensibly arrayed and ready to attend on his highness at a day's notice. It is surprising, therefore, that a long journey should have been undertaken by a private individual at such a time, and more especially when the road led to the seat of the greatest disorder. But an examination of the record itself may afford some valuable conclusions as to the general state of the country at that time.
The bursar started from Oxford on Monday, August 13th, 1464, i.e., the Monday preceding the Feast of the Assumption. Being the first day of his long journey he was anxious not to make himself stiff by riding too far, and only got as far as Buckingham, about 17 miles.
Merton Coll. Deeds, No. 2,853, on paper 140 lines, 4 inches wide.
He there bought a halter, probably to lead one of his pack horses, and supped on ducks, bread and beer. On Tuesday, August 14th, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, be dined at Bedford, and he must therefore have ridden about 25 miles before mid-day. He had roach, from the Ouse at Bedford, for dinner, with bread and beer, and pushing on in the afternoon he reached Gamlingay, a little village in Bedfordshire, by night. Merton college has still some property at Gamlingay.
He appears to have timed his journey to arrive at Cambridge, to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, on Wednesday, August 15th. On that day he dined with the master of St. John's. It should be remembered that this individual was not the master of the present foundation, but master of the Hospital of St. John, which stood on the site of the college of the same name. The bursar was wise in his choice of a host on this occasion, for the hospital was wealthy, and the extravagant sums spent by the canons of St. John's upon
their commons afforded shortly afterwards a reason for the suppression of the establishment. He spent the afternoon of the feast-day in drinking beer with a companion, and treated himself to sixpennyworth of meat for supper. The object of the bursar's visit to Cambridge was no doubt the transaction of some business connected with the Merton college property there. The name of Merton hall, the old house facing the Madingley road, still recalls the connection of the ancient Oxford college with the University of Cambridge.
On Thursday (August 16th) the bursar again dined with the master of St. John's. In the afternoon, like some modern graduate, he walked to the picturesque village of Grantchester, about two miles from Cambridge. There he spent the afternoon with his friend Lacy, and refreshed himself with beer and carp-the latter probably caught in the mill pool, then recently made famous by Chaucer. On the same day he bought a horse comb.
Resuming his journey on Friday (August 17th) he reached Huntingdon, 12 miles distant, in time for the midday dinner. Pushing on after dinner he reached Stamford, 20 miles from Huntingdon, by night, having therefore travelled 32 miles in the day. A payment for candles shows that he sat up after it had become dark.
Before starting on Saturday (August 18th) the usual draught of
beer was taken as a stirrup-cup. Grantham (15 miles) was reached by dinner time, Newark (12 miles from Grantham) in time for supper. The day's journey of 37 miles ended at Tuxford.
On Saturday night the bursar cast up his account for the week's journey and found that his expenditure amounted to 10s. 11d. He had only eaten butcher's meat once, viz., on Wednesday, the feastday, his other meals had consisted of bread and beer, with fresh-water fish, or an occasional duck.
Resuming the road on Sunday (August 19th) he travelled by way of Blythe (8 miles) where he dined, to Doncaster (16 miles) where he mended his saddle. The day's journey was short, and ended at Wentbridge, 23 miles. Meat was eaten twice, at dinner and supper, in observance of the day.
On Monday (August 20th) he dined at Wetherby (14 miles) and ended the day at Northallerton, a day's journey of 34 miles.
The next day (Tuesday, August 21st) he went to Stillington, where Merton college had property, and arrived at Durham (23 miles).
Wednesday (August 22nd) he spent in Durham, attending to the shoeing of his horses.
Thursday (August 23rd) was the eve of the Feast of St. Bartholomew, which he celebrated by the exceptional luxury of two pennyworth of wine with his dinner in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He arrived on Thursday night, after a ride of 19 miles, at the Merton college living of Ponteland.
He proceeded on the following day, Friday (August 24th), to Rothbury (12 miles) and Bolton; and thence he had to take a guide to lead him across Alnwick Moor to Alnwick. The distance from Rothbury to Alnwick is entered in a memorandum of the distances at the end of the paper as only 8 miles, but it is in reality much more. As there was no regular road the bursar seems to have trusted to his memory for the distance.
At Alnwick the bursar's long journey was virtually at an end, and be therefore celebrated his safe arrival by a dinner on Saturday, upon which he spent the sum of one shilling. This was more than double the usual cost of that meal, and would be equivalent to at least ten
2 The Rolls for Stillington are at Merton college. They are very numerous and voluminous.
shillings at the present day. No doubt every obtainable delicacy graced the bursar's board on that occasion.
As he was to dine with the Abbot of Alnwick on the following day (Sunday) he expended a penny in shaving. The expenditure of the week amounted to 9s. 7.d.: a total for the fortnight of 20s. 6d.
On Sunday (August 26th) he dined with the Abbot at Alnwick abbey, and on Monday (August 27th) he arrived at the end of his outward journey at Embleton. The bursar appears to have entertained a large party at Embleton, at both dinner and supper on that day.
His journey north had occupied exactly a fortnight, but it must be remembered that he had not come direct from Oxford. He had only had twelve days of actnal travel, and had traversed in that time a distance of about 256 miles, and therefore his average day's journey had been rather more than 21 miles.
The bursar stopped at Embleton for a month, and did not leave that place until Friday, September 28th, when the harvest would be well over, and the tithe corn safely stored in the college grange.
On his return journey the bursar dined on Sunday (September 30th), the feast of St. Jerome, with the Abbot of Newminster, and stayed in Newcastle until Wednesday, October 3rd. On his return his calvacade was composed of at least four horses, for he got three horses re-shod in Newcastle, and he also mentions another--a white horse. Either he himself or some of his party seem to have fallen ill in Newcastle, for he had to spend eight pence on some medicines there, and four pence on some sort of surgical instrument. Possibly he had caught a chill, as he began to pay for fires on Tuesday, October 2nd.
Either this illness or some other cause delayed the party in Durham from Tuesday, October 2nd, to Saturday, October 7th, and when the journey was resumed one of the party rode on a crupper specially bought in Durham, with a new bit. An item of expenditure at Durham was 28. 6d. for a salt, apparently medicinal. Two curious items also are 4d. for two citations, and 2s. 6d. for a malediction,' perhaps a form of exorcism. The bursar followed the same road by which he had come as far as Northallerton, when he struck across the Yorkshire moors to Newburgh, near Coxwold. In noting his expenditure the bursar describes the latter place as Newburgh, namely the new borough, where Saint Saviour is.' There was an Augus
tinian priory at Newburgh, and the bursar alludes here to a miraculous image of St. Saviour, at Newburgh, which was an object of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages from many miles around. At Newburgh he spent 2d., on ‘minshynys,' a provincial word meaning a small piece as applied to food. Hungry children on receiving a small piece say *what a minchin to give me.' At the present day Newburgh park, the former priory, is associated with the memory of Oliver Cromwell, whose heart is said to be mouldering somewhere within the walls of Sir George Wombwell's house. On Wednesday, October 10th, the bursar proceeded to York, and travelling by way of Doncaster, Worksop, Mansfield, Nottingham, Leicester, Kibworth, and Daventry, he reached Oxford on the evening of Monday, October 15th, having been absent about two months.
At the end of his itinerary he has noted down a few miscellaneous items, e.g., for an excommunication 8d., for gaiters for a member of the party 10d., for a guide from Bedlington to Newcastle 6d.
Not the least interesting feature in the document is a memorandum at the end of the various distances from one place to another on the outward journey. Where the high-road was followed these distances are fairly accurate, but in the more remote regions they are not quite trustworthy, eg. the bursar estimates the distance from Alnwick to Embleton as only four miles. The bursar seems to have bought the horse, upon which he rode himself, for twenty shillings. The total cost of the journey, inclusive of everything, amounted to £6 78. 3d.
Looking at the document as a whole, our feeling is possibly one of disappointment that no reference whatever is made to contemporary events. The bursar and his servants jogged on from day to day in perfect safety, and covered their twenty or thirty miles a day with unfailing regularity. No toll was exacted and the roads were good. We might have expected some distant echo of the clang of arms to have penetrated even this formal document, but it cannot be said that the bursar's memoranda strike anywhere a martial note. Whilst feudalism was dashing itself to pieces in the mighty conflicts of the civil war the country at large was absolutely peaceful; and whilst the great lords were involved in mortal conflict, the humble traveller could proceed from one end of England to the other without let or hindrance. We are sometimes told that England, during the Wars of the Roses,