Archive:Archaeologia Cambrensis, Fifth Series, Vol. XV

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Probable site of the Hermitage

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Archives > Archive:Extracts > Archive:Archaeologia Cambrensis > Archaeologia Cambrensis, Fifth Series, Vol. XV

Cambrian Archaeological Association, Archaeologia Cambrensis, The Journal of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, Vol. XV. Fifth Series (London: The Bedford Press, 1898) as digitized by Google Books.

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By far the most interesting feature in the history of Winforton is the hermitage of St. Cynidr.

In very early days, probably when Winforton was still the "waste" of which Domesday speaks, some pious hermit, seeking a refuge from the turmoil and temptations of the world, took up his abode on a little island in the river Wye, about a quarter of a mile south of the spot where now stands Winforton Church. In due time there arose on the island not only a hermitage, but also a chapel dedicated to St. Cynidr, a Celtic saint of the sixth century. From its dedication we may be certain that the first hermit was a Welshman, and that the hermitage was founded at some period anterior to the Saxon conquest of Herefordshire. It may indeed be that it owed its origin to the saint whose name it bore, for we know that he lived in the neighbourhood, and that he was buried at Glasbury, nine miles higher up the river, the church of which place was dedicated to him.

A more ideal site for a hermitage than the isle of Winforton it would be difficult to imagine ; solitude and comparative safety were secured to it by the waters of the Wye around it, while on the south it was over-

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shadowed by the steep dark heights of Meerbach mountain, where may yet be seen a relic of the faith of a still earlier day, the huge cromlech known as Arthur's Stone. Though the river has altered its course so much that it now flows half a mile distant from the hermitage, its site may still almost claim the name of island, for a deep moat, crossed by a stone bridge, protects it on the north, and in time of flood it is altogether surrounded by water.

The actual remains consist of an oblong mound, artificially raised some ten feet above the level of the soil, and approached by raised causeways on the southwest and north-west. Stones crop out here and there, and from the appearance of the ground it would seem as if the building had terminated in an apse at the east end.

The first benefactor to the hermitage of whom we hear was Walter de Mucegros, Lord of Winforton, and son of Milo and Petronilla de Mucegros, who, with the consent of his wife Iveta, and Milo de Mucegros his son and heir, gave to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Blessed Cynidr and to the servants of God performing divine service in the chapel of St. Cynidr, in the Isle of Winforton, the land of Brotheracre, also two acres in his wood next to the land of Steuma (the Stowe) called Exmo, two acres and a half next to Brotheracres, one acre and a half next those which

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Philip Raxley held, all his moor (or manor) of Lynacres as far as Assarhem Eynan, another acre under Steuma, the site of the mill with its appurtenances upon Wye in the lordship of Winforton, with the grist of the village ; that part of the moor that Aluuredus Knav held, and pasture for three cows and for one palfrey in the lordship of Winforton, and all the croft next the chapel which adjoins the land of the church of Winforton upon Wye, and free egress and ingress to till the said lands, and to receive the profit of the mill. The grant concludes by calling down the wrath of God and the Blessed Virgin and the Blessed Cynidr, and of the Bishop of Hereford (Hugh ffoliot), and all other Christian people, on anyone who shall presume to sell or diminish or otherwise interfere with Walter Muce- gros's gift. The mention of Hugh ffoliot enables us to fix approximately the date of the grant, as he was Bishop of Hereford from 1219 to 1234.

Some years later, when one Friar Stephen was the occupant of the hermitage, several more donations were made to it. Walter de Mucegros, son of Milo de Mucegros and Margerie de Blenknidon, confirmed the grants of his grandfather Walter to the hermitage and chapel of St. Cynidr; and to Stephen the hermit there he gave the increase of his land between the said chapel and the Wye (cum tota vina Haya), with all the quick hedge which by his consent Friar Stephen had planted about the said hermitage, and he also ordained that it should not be lawful for anyone to take anything out of the enclosure so hedged.

Robert de Whitney, lord of the neighbouring parish of Whitney, gave to St. Cynidr and Friar Stephen, and his successors in the hermitage, nine acres of land in the old "Hay",1 which lay near the land of his brother Eustace, "persson of Pencombe", and the wood of the Lord of Winforton, and the Lord Llewelyn ap Llewelyn ap Eynon. This grant was afterwards confirmed by Sir Eustace de Whitney.

1 Possibly part of the farm now called the Mill Haugh".

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Another benefactor to the hermitage was Walter de Clifford (son of Walter de Clifford and Agneta (?) de Cundy, and nephew of Fair Rosamond), who granted to St. Cynidr and Friar Stephen, of the hermitage in the Isle of Winforton, nine acres of land in his manor of Middlewood, whereon one half-acre lay on the upper part of the chapel of St. Oswald1 and one half(?) towards Galweye, and the other towards Lythe, as also common of pasture in Middlewood, with lands in Winforton, and a tenement by St. Oswald's Chapel and the lands of Rice, son of Philip.

We also find mention of a friar named Walter, during whose time Robert de Whitney granted to Friar Walter the hermit, in the Isle upon Wye, all the land with the wood standing on it which lay between the land "Domini Eustachij de Stowe" and the wood "Domini Waited de Muchegros", to be held by the said Walter and his successors for ever. This grant so much resembles one already quoted of a Robert de Whitney, that we might doubt its authenticity had we not two other independent notices of Friar Walter to support it. Camden mentions "one Walter" as an occupant of the hermitage ; and we have a still more reliable testimony in the Hereford Episcopal Registers, in which it is recorded that "Walter the Hermit" held an acre in Linacre Moor, in Winforton, by a certain yearly rent". Reference to this entry in the Registers would fix the date of Friar Walter; but in any case we may be sure that, as he lived in the time of Walter de Mucegros, he must have been a predecessor of Stephen.

The hermitage had thus acquired quite an important position, when, for some reason or other, it suddenly lost its independence and became simply an appanage of Wormesley Priory. It may be that its increasing revenues attracted the cupidity of the Canons of Wormesley Priory, but, willingly or unwillingly, Friar Stephen gave his consent to the arrangement. The

1 Now called Tuswell.

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register of Wonnesley Priory records that in 1264 John le Strange, Lord of Monnington and Winforton, with the consent of Stephen the Hermit, and of Endicus, Precentor of Hereford, vicegerent of the Bishop of Hereford, granted the hermitage of St. Cynidr, with right of patronage thereto, to the church of St. Leonard of Wormesley, and the canons there serving God, who in return were to say mass for the souls of the donor and of Walter Mucegros.

At the same time, John Giffard and Matilda Longespee, his wife, confirmed to the Prior and Convent of Wormesley the grants made to Friar Stephen by Walter Clifford, Matilda's father.

Somewhat later, John le Strange, son of John, gave to the hermitage a meadow which Friar Stephen held of the Lady Matilda de Longespee, and quitted his claim to it.

In 1304, Roger de Mortimer, lord of Winforton, for the welfare of his soul, etc., considering the Priors of Wormesley had no certain way assigned to them whereby they might pass and re-pass into the grounds belonging to the hermitage, gave and ordained a competent and sufficient way for all their use necessary at all times of the year, "ad carros & carrettas servientibus & ad anirnalia frapaganda" through the north gate. The said way was to be 10 ft. in breadth directly to Holowe medewe, to the passage1 of Middle- wood, "a Heremite way to remayne there for the future". This "Heremite" way was probably the narrow lane which still leads towards the hermitage from the village.

In 1365, John Gours, Hugh Monington, and John Minors left land in Wybbenham to the Prior and Convent of Wormesley for fifty years, and another half acre in Winforton, reserving the rent of a rose at the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, and the following year they did quit-claim to the Prior and Convent for ever.

1 I.e., the ford.

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A further donation also seems to have been made by some member of the Whitney family of a payment of 2s. 4d. rent for ninety-nine years, from lands called Halvehyden to the Priory and Convent of Wormesley. Among the Whitney Court MSS. is a deed relating to this gift, dated at Wormesley, 1424, and referring to Sir Robert Whitney. This deed is endorsed as follows: "The rente of Halvehyd is now reverted to the house of Whitney."

In the parish archives of Whitney is the copy of a deed relating to the same lands.

Winforton, December 20th, 1776.

Survey made August-September 1652.

The land belonging to the manor of Winforton Park is mentioned in the Rolls by the name of

"All that pasture ground called the Halls fields alias Halvie inclosed by Sir Robert Whitney lying and being in a park called Whitney Park, within and belonging to the manor of Winforton, containing by estimation six acres. At that time Sir Robert Whitney claimed an interest in the six acres. But though he had notice given him to pledge (or plead ?) his estate therein, he gave in no writings nor evidence to make good his claim concerning the same." "

"Taken from the Rolls by Edward Lewis and afterwards transcribed from his copy. by me, Edward Edwards, Rector of Whitney."

Silas Taylor gives an extract from the Hereford Episcopal Registers to the effect that in the parish of Winforton there is a place called Aldbury, near which the hermitage had some lands.

Of the subsequent history of the hermitage and its occupants we know nothing, but, being monastic property, it probably shared the fate of Wormesley at the Dissolution, and, being abandoned, soon fell into decay. Its buildings had disappeared before the year 1675, and nothing but the oblong mound remains to tell the story of the past.

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The indiscretions of the Vice-Admiral's tongue were rather startling. To a servant of his own chief, Sir William Morgan, he said that Sir John (Perrot) "deserved hanging upon some one or two or three or four points". At the "Blue Boar", in Holborn, he showed Walter Vaughan the petition he was going to present to the Queen against sir John. He told William Parry that "Sir John better deserved hanging than any thief". From Parry he went to the lord Keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and presented him a "book against the said Sir John". There he met his old neighbour, Mr. Whitney, Sir Nicholas's serjeant-of-mace (they seem both to have been Herefordshire men), and urged him to come with him to search Sir John's house at Carew for stolen goods.

Copyright © 2008, Tim Doyle and the Whitney Research Group

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