Book Review: The Knights Hospitallers in Medieval Hampshire: A Calendar of the Godsfield and Baddesley Cartulary (Felicity Beard) — Review by Duncan Berryman

Beard, Felicity, ed. The Knights Hospitallers in Medieval Hampshire: A Calendar of the Godsfield and Baddesley CartularyHampshire Record Series Volume XIX. Hampshire County Council: Winchester, 2012. 109 pages (HB). £15.00. ISBN: 9781859758588.

This publication provides, for the first time, a calendar of the cartulary of the Hospitallers’ estates in Hampshire.  The introduction describes in detail the appearance and content of the cartulary, such as the number of folios, page size, organisation of the manuscript and colours of the text.  There is also an account of the development of the estates of the Hospitallers in Hampshire, as can be deduced from the grants of land in the cartulary.

Many of the land holdings of the Hospitallers are known from the publication of the cartularies and documents held at the head preceptory of Clerkenwell.  However, the documents of the Hampshire holdings at Godsfield and North Baddesley were not included in this central collection, suggesting that they were retained by the Hampshire preceptories themselves for their own management.  The introduction to this book also describes the composition of the cartulary, which shows that the majority was copied under one preceptor, but space was left in the back pages of the manuscript to allow later land grants to be recorded.  This suggests that the cartulary was a working document, intended to be updated and useful long after it was written.  The introduction to this calendar is exceptionally interesting and provides many insights into the management of the estates.  However, the most useful section is the calendar of the cartulary itself.  Each entry details the key information of the land grant, such as the names of those involved in the transaction and the location of the land; approximate dates have been calculated for each entry based on the formulation of the words.

The usefulness of this calendar will be seen by many historians and scholars of the Middle Ages, and will especially be of relevance to anyone studying medieval land holdings and estate management. It is possible to use this calendar to build a picture of the holdings of these preceptories and understand how this landscape changed over time.  This calendar provides a case study of the land holdings of the Hospitallers in Hampshire and can be compared with other research into the estates of the Hospitallers.  The central records of the Hospitallers might be a useful comparison and these estates can be contrasted with those of the Knights Templar. Any researchers working with land grants and their social implications must obtain a copy of this book.  These charters have never before been made publicly available and are not recorded anywhere else in the documents of the Knights Hospitallers.  The most obvious area of research, and probably least common, is that of the Knights Hospitallers themselves.  The contents of the cartulary does not reveal much about the Knights’ activities across Europe or in the Middle East, but it does provide a wealth of knowledge about their English estates and how they were managed.  The majority of information we have about the Hospitallers estates comes from the central records of the Order, but this cartulary will allow researchers to study an individual preceptory and consider its management.

There are some limitations to this calendar.  It must be remembered that this is a calendar, not a complete transcription of the cartulary.  The calendar provides the key information regarding the grants described in the cartulary, but it does not contain full details of all the entries.  It is possible that the charters in the original cartulary contain additional information that could help to reveal more about the social interactions of the communities.  However, this calendar does provide a very detailed starting point to inform further research into these areas.  The strength of this book is the detailed calendar and the introductory overview of what the cartulary can reveal about these estates.  This book is not an extensive study of the Hampshire estates of the Hospitallers, but it highlights what could be in such a study.  With the detailed and rich records contained within this cartulary, it is possible to create an accurate map of the land holdings and to reconstruct their history.  The introduction could have benefited from more maps of the geography of the holdings, illustrating the landscape that these preceptories were located within. However, it should be remembered that as an introduction to the calendar, an analysis of the geographic information regarding the land holdings and their changes over time deserves to be the subject of an independent study.

In conclusion, this is a well-constructed calendar of the cartulary.  The introduction provides a thorough overview of the document and skillfully places it in its historical context.  It also provides access to a significant unexplored source of information regarding the land holdings of these remote preceptories of the lesser-studied Knights Hospitallier in England.

Duncan Berryman is currently researching for a PhD in Archaeology at Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom.  His research is focusing on the buildings of medieval manorial complexes across England during the fourteenth century, specifically looking at their materials and maintenance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.