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Monastic Charity for Jewish Converts: The Requisition of Corrodies by Henry III*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Joan Greatrex
Symonds Yat Carleton University, Ottawa


The controversy which concerns us now, as it once concerned the thirteenth-century participants, centres upon the king’s right to demand corrodies in monastic establishments for his own nominees. Thus it is necessary to begin by defining the term ‘corrody’ in the present context. In describing a corrody as ‘nothing more than an allowance consisting of a share in a common fund’, Professor Hamilton Thompson neatly encapsulated the multifarious forms which it could take; he also drew attention to its potentially disastrous effects when he noted that at least one person, who should have known better, believed that corrodies were so called because they were corrosive. The allowances or provisions were specified in a written agreement between the monastic chapter and the prospective recipient and might include board, lodging, items of clothing, and cash payments, or any one of these, or a combination of them; and so they were often entered on monastic officials’ expense accounts as annuities, pensions, or liveries (liherationes). Acting on their own initiative and often against episcopal injunctions, religious houses in financial straits made such grants to laymen, whose wives were sometimes included, in return for a lump sum or a donation of property. The corrodian who paid cash or bequeathed part of his estate provided an immediate and welcome boost in income for the community which received him, and he and his family gained security and comfort in their declining years. But the financial relief for the monastery which had guaranteed hospitality for life could, and did, turn into a liability when the beneficiaries lived longer than had been anticipated. In addition, outsiders, by virtue of their rights as founders and benefactors, made certain claims on religious houses, among which was the requisition of corrodies on behalf of relatives or retainers. It was this form of exploitation in which the King himself was the chief offender, and Henry III, in financial straits, would argue that he was in principle the patron of all religious establishments in the country.

Research Article
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 1992

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I should like to thank Professor R. C. Stacey for his comments and suggestions with regard to this paper, and for his generosity in lending me the typescript of his article, referred to in nn. 20 and 43, below.


1 Thompson, A. Hamilton, The English Clergy in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1947), p.74.Google Scholar In fact, the word corrodium or wrredium, and sometimes conredium, first appears as a medieval Latin term with the meaning given above.

2 As Barbara Harvey pointed out, with colourful examples from Westminster Abbey, in the Ford Lectures of 1989; these will soon appear in print with the title ‘Living and dying in England, 1200–1540: the monastic experience’.

3 Susan, Wood, English Monasteries ana their Patrons in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford, 1955 Google Scholar), esp.

4 Matthew Paris relates a conversation between the abbot of Buildwas and the King in 1256, when the former tactfully remonstrated with the latter on this point; see his Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, H. R., RS, 7 vols (1872-83), 5, pp. 5534.Google Scholar

5 5. Anselmi, Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Opera Omnia, ed. Schmitt, F. S., 6 vols (Edinburgh, 1946-61), 5, ep.380.Google Scholar

6 Cheney, C. R. and Cheney, M. G., eds, The Letters of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) Concerning England and Wales (Oxford, 1967), no. 169.Google Scholar

7 William Henry Hart and Ponson by Lyons, A., eds, Cartularium Monasterii de Rameseia, RS, 3 vols (1884-93), 1, p. 68 Google Scholar; it was a request from Innocent IV (1243-54).

8 Abbot Samson expelled the Jews from Bury St Edmunds in 1190; seejocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, tr. and notes by Diana Greenway and Jane Sayers (Oxford, 1989), pp. 41-2. As Archdeacon of Leicester, Grosseteste approved of Simon de Montfort’s action in removing thejews there; see Southern, R. W., Robert Grosseteste, the Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe (Oxford, 1986), p.246.Google Scholar

9 Langmuir, G. I., ‘The Jews and the archives of Angevin England: reflections on medieval antisemitism’, Tradilio, 19 (1963), pp.2356.Google Scholar

10 Stacey, R.C., Politics, Policy and Finance under Henry 111, 1216-124) (Oxford, 1987), ch. 4, passim, and pp. 24359.Google Scholar

11 For details of the foundation of the London Domus see the appendix of documents in Michael Adler, The Jews of Medieval England (London, 1939), pp. 340–1.

12 CIR, 1231-4, p. 415 for Philip. In the 1255 list discussed below Henry was, with Philip, the sixth in order of the most frequently chosen among masculine names.

13 J. A. Watt, ‘The English Episcopate, the State and the Jews: the evidence of the thirteenth-century conciliar decrees’, in P. R. Cross and S. D. Lloyd, eds, Thirteenth Century England II, Proceedings of the Newcastle upon Tyne Conference (1987), p. 143.

14 John de Darlington, a Dominican, was the King’s confessor; John Mansell and John de Plessetis, Earl of Warwick, were both royal counsellors and held various offices of state. Dr Nicholas Vincent has informed me that although Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, did not mention the Domus in his will, he did support some converts whose names are to be found on the Winchester pipe rolls during his episcopate.

15 ClR, 1247-51, p. 100.

16 ClR, 1242-7, pp. 418 and 165, where it is made clear that they were also in the Domus both before and after this date.

17 CPR, 1247-58, p. 180, and ClR, 1251-3, p. 432, respectively. Laybrothers are not known to have been royal nominees and would hardly have been posted to nunneries! It is to be noted (1) that the abbess of Barking had been distrained the year before for failing to pay the 49½ marks due for tallage from her tenants during the recent vacancy, ClR, 1251-5, p.70; and (2) that the royal nominee at Romsey was Matilda, sister of Robert Walerand, seneschal of the New Forest, who had arranged for the abbess to have 16 oaks ‘ad fabricam ecclesìe sue’ only a few months before the corrody was requested, ibid., p. 375.

18 ClR, 1251-3, p. 509.

19 Ibid., p. 457.

20 PRO, C/60/52; three of the Benedictine houses were nunneries. Adler has printed a partial and somewhat inaccurate list in Jews of Medieval England, pp. 342-6. R. C. Stacey’s reckoning, in ‘The conversion of Jews to Christianity in thirteenth-century England’, Speculum (forthcoming), results in a slightly higher number of converts; but the difference is accounted for by the uncertainties surrounding entries like ‘Robert and Hugh, sons of Richard, converts’, followed by another entry naming Robert alone, or Hugh. How many of these are references to the same person?

21 One marginal comment ‘quia non habuerunt’ clearly shows the resistance of some of the monasteries to the King’s excessive demands; another annotation was ‘prêter habunt secundum breve’.

22 None of the fines which are entered on the face of the roll have any connection with this type of fine.

23 ClR, 1247-51, pp. 100 and 509.

24 The Abbot of Westminster was a friend and adviser of the King and must have been frequently concerned with Henry’s building programme at Westminster; in 1249–50 he was also actively involved with the affairs of the Domus at Henry’s request. ClR, 1247-51, pp. 238, 246, 260. John de Skipton, Prior of Newburgh, was chaplain to the King between c.1250 and 125s, and as such occurs passim in the close rolls for these years. Between 1252 and 1256 the Abbot of Pershore was an escheator and is found authorizing many letters in ClR, 1251-3, e.g., pp. 29-31, 37-8, etc.

25 Constance of Reading may be another example. The name Constance without further

26 Their names occur together on the first and second lists, and Robert’s name alone is repeated lower down on the second list, an indication that the small Cistercian house of Dore may have agreed to accept only one of them. In the end Dore probably received a royal servant instead, according to entries on the two lists of these officials.

27 ClR, 1259-61, p. 262. Henry also attempted to place John of St Albans and his family in the French Abbey of Lire in 1254 (CPR, 1247-58, p. 386); but in the following year the fine roll indicates that they were being shunted back and forth, together and separately, between the three Cistercian houses of Cleeve, Kingswood, and Woburn. Dr Emma Mason has suggested to me that Henry was attempting to assert his patronal claims over these Norman abbeys: Fecamp, which was a ducal foundation, and Lire and Cormeilles, which were baronial foundations but had been drawn into the royal orbit by Henry I when he seized the Fitzosbern lands in England and Normandy; see Bates, David, Normandy before 1066 (London, 1982)Google Scholar, pp. 68, 115, 121, 165, 193. It should also be noted that Henry did not accept the loss of Normandy until the Treaty of Paris in 1259.

28 Nicholas is found still engaged in the royal service in 1259-60, CPR, 1258-66, pp. 57 and 103.

29 It should be noted that the 1255 lists do not provide clear evidence of the breaking up of many of the convert families, unless we include the unknown number of families who became divided because only some of their members were converted.

30 Three are designated as clerici. See also n. 20, above.

31 It would be incorrect to regard each entry as evidence that a writ was sent; it is more likely that the same writ was delivered more than once.

32 There are 18 female names which appear only once, one of these being Maria.

33 See nn. 16 and 25, above.

34 For William see PRO, SC1/2/79, and for Roger, CIR, 1264-8, pp. 109-10.

35 ClR, 1250-61, p. 108.

36 PRO, SC1/28/92. The Prior of Dunstable turned down a papal request on behalf of a convert in 1275, Luard, H. R., ed.Annales Monastici, RS, 5 vols (1864-9), 3. p. 265.Google Scholar

37 PRO, SC1/16/65, and printed in Adler, Jews of Medieval England, p. 347.

38 PRO, SC1/24/201.1 am grateful to Dr Crook at the Public Record Office for his help with regard to this letter. The reference to Hagar is in Gen. 21.

39 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. 692, fol. 89V. Alice may have spent time in the Domus, see Adler, Jews of Medieval England, p. 352, where he quotes from Rymer, Foedera.

40 Stacey, Politics, p. 259.

41 For a discussion on this point see R. C. Stacey, ‘1240-60: a watershed in Anglo-Jewish Relations?’, HR, 61 (1988), p. 140.

42 Dobson, R. B., ‘The decline and expulsion of the medieval Jews of York’, TJHSE, 26 (1979), p. 36.Google Scholar

43 Stacey, ‘The conversion of Jews to Christianity’, gives several examples of continued contact between converts and their former co-religionists.

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