Puttenham’s earliest recorded rector

Up here in Nottingham, I feel quite distant from Puttenham at times (and I don’t mean physically – I have a Geography degree, you know…), so it was nice to be rewarded with finding not one but two newly-published things with relevance to home turf on a trip to the university library this week. One is Judie English’s short article in the latest volume of the Surrey Archaeological Collections bringing to publication the 1960s excavations of the so-called “White Barrow” on the Hog’s Back above Wanborough. It’s fascinating, particularly the palaeoenvironmental insights it gives about the Hog’s Back ridge, and is something I wish to add to by means of a note for the SyAS Bulletin, to be put together over the Christmas holidays.

The other work is the latest publication from the Surrey Record Society, of which I am a self-confessed fan. Entitled Royal Justice in Surrey, 1258-1269, it provides the first published edition of three sources: the forest regard roll of circa 1258, the 1268 de terre datis eyre and 1269 forest eyre roll. It is the first of these which provides the most interesting reference as far as Puttenham is concerned. An entry listing assarts made in the manor of Henley concludes with the following;

“Thomas rector of the church of Puttenham made one assart containing three acres.” (Stewart 2013, 82 no. 126)

I’ve known about this reference for a few years, as it is mentioned some notes in the collections of the Puttenham and Wanborough History Society. The anonymous author of the notes did not give the date of the source but assigned it vaguely to the remarkably long reign of Henry III (1216-72). But now it’s appeared in print, which means Thomas officially can now be granted the status of Puttenham’s first known rector, in place of Henry le Sigher (circa 1273 – confusingly, Puttenham had up to three parsons of this name in the decades either side of 1300). Sorry, Henry.

Not only do we have the name of a mid-thirteenth-century priest, moreover one involved in the local land economy (was this because the glebe was too small?), but it’s just dawned on me that the above also contains the earliest reference to the church itself. Architecturally speaking, it’s evident that there was an ecclesiastical building (whether or not it possessed the status of church from the start) at Puttenham for as much as a century and a half before this date, yet its good to be able to push the historical date back a couple of decades from the episcopal register of John de Pontoise which refers to the church circa 1279. Its more than likely future research or publication of existing research will push this date back further, and maybe give us the name of one of Thomas’ predecessors as well.

Staying with Puttenham, it’s interesting to find one of its best-attested medieval residents, William de Frollebury, recorded in two out of the three edited sources. In the de terre datis eyre, he is one of 13 jurors of Godalming Hundred; some of his fellow jurors (e.g. William Toly, Walter de la Fenne) are men who also crop up as witnesses in deeds from Puttenham and surrounding parishes around this time (Stewart 2013, 1 no. 2). A year hence and, in the forest eyre roll, he occurs as one of four verderers (viridarios) of the royal forest of Windsor involved in a case brought against the rector and ex-bailiff of Crondall (and posthumously against one Peter de Montfort) regarding their poaching of a stag and a hind (Stewart 2013, 97-98 no. 154; also xxxiii).

While I did not know William held either of these minor positions of authority, it comes as no surprise to me given the diverse capacities in which he appears in the local and regional documentary record up to his death in (or just before?) 1300. I spoke at length about William, his father Richard and their descendants in a talk I gave to the Puttenham and Wanborough History Society about a year and a half ago. Life has got in the way since then and I haven’t been able to turn the text into an essay but I have pencilled in some time in the new year to do this – just before I give my next talk to the Society!

Royal Justice in Surrey, 1258-1269, ed. by Susan Stewart, Surrey Record Society, 45 (Woking: Surrey Record Society, 2013) – go buy it from the Surrey Record Society!

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