Some little known facts about Worcester pertinent to the Welsh Marches


Shortly before the death of King Alfred in 899 Bishop Werferth of Worcester asked Aethelred and Aethelflaed of Mercia to fortify the town for the defence of the people and the security of the cathedral. When this had been finished Aethelred and Aethelflaed granted the bishop half their rights 'in the market-place or in the streets' reserving to the king the toll of goods brought to Worcester in wagons or on horses, and to the bishop all the rights which had belonged to his predecessors within the property belonging to his church. These included a tax levied for the repair of the borough wall, a payment called landfeoh, which was presumably the rent yielded by tenements within or close to the fortifications, fines for fighting, theft and dishonest trading. This document suggests that not only the market but also the fortifications were new and that the rents and judicial profits were regarded as a compensation for the cost of making the town defensible.

In 1049 Bishop Ealdred of Worcester's military levy was part Welsh.

In 1075 Earl Roger Breteuil of Hereford rebelled, only to be defeated at Worcester by Bishop Wulfstan, Abbot Ethelburg of Evesham, Sheriff Urse Abitot of Worcester [Elmley Castle] and Walter Lacy.
Earl Roger of Hereford and Earl William of East Anglia repaired to their castles and began with their supporters to use all possible endeavours in encouraging rebellion. Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester, however, held the Severn with a great body of soldiers, preventing Earl Roger from moving into the Midlands.
Earl Roger of Hereford was called to go to the king's court for an inquest to be made showing to all the world his high treason which it was not possible to deny. Therefore the second law Norman law of justice was used; he surrendered all his hereditary lands and was damned to the king's prison for ever.
In 1088 the chief men of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Wales rebelled at Easter, but some 500 of them were captured at Worcester.
Whilst so much destruction was wrought throughout the kingdom Bernard Neufmarché, Roger Lacy, who had lately wrested Hereford from the king, and Ralph Mortimer, accomplices in the conspiracy, with the vassals of Earl Roger of Shrewsbury, having assembled a numerous army of English, Normans and Welsh, burst into the province of Worcester declaring that they would burn the city, sack the Church and take vengeance on those in the city who were loyal to the king. The Marchers burnt and pillaged as they advanced so the troops were broken up into unorganized raiding parties, who were choked and confused by their own fires and smoke. They did not realize the threat of the well ordered Worcester garrison and levies until too late. And so the scattered Marcher raiding bands were utterly defeated.
Osbern Fitz Richard Fitz Scrope and Bernard Neufmarché invaded the territory of Worcester, slaying and robbing.
Ralph Mortimer was pacified in Normandy after the rebellion.
Earl Roger of Shrewsbury was one of the great men who 'provided their castles with fortifications and provisions' in opposing King William Rufus.

In 1095 many of the ecclesiastics of Worcester still spoke and made their records in Anglo-Saxon rather than Latin or French. No doubt this was due to Bishop Wulfstan who supported King William the Conqueror and survived as bishop until his death in 1095.

In July 1113 Worcester city and castle were destroyed by fire.

On 28 November 1137 King Stephen was at Worcester.

During 1138 Waleran Beaumont of Meulan was made earl of Worcester. He lived until 1166.

On 30 April 1139, King Stephen was at Worcester ‘as a magnificent king who settled all things in the district peacefully’. Then he moved to Ludlow castle and besieged the rebels by erecting a double fortification for the storming of the castle. He then returned through Worcester to London. However a dispute amongst the besiegers caused him to return to make peace amongst them.
King Stephen ineffectually besieged Ludlow castle where he rescued Prince Henry of Scotland from a grapnel thrown down from the walls of the fortress. During 1139 Stephen’s itinerary was 30 April Worcester, May Ludlow, Worcester, London, Worcester, Ludlow, 24 June Oxford, December 1139 Worcester for three or five days, Little Hereford, Leominster, Worcester and 25 December Salisbury. A round trip of at least 715 miles.
On 7 November the royal town of Worcester was sacked by the men of Gloucester. On hearing of Gloucester's advance the men of Worcester carried their gods and chattels into the cathedral which then looked like a furniture store which became the resort and place of gossip for the citizens in which there was hardly room for the servants of God, so many were the sacks and chests. While the clerk intoned within, the child screamed without; mingled with the sound of the psalms was the noise of mothers nursing or weeping over their children.  At daybreak on 7 November the men of the city of Gloucester in battle array, supported with horse and foot beyond number, advanced against he city of Worcester with intent to attack, plunder and burn it to the ground. Their first onslaught was beaten off manfully, but an entrance was made on the north side of the city where there was no fortification to block their path; then a vast mob of the enemy, infuriated and unrestrained, poured in and set alight to buildings in different parts of the city. The greater part of the town, however, escaped the flames; but there was much plundering both within the wall and in the neighbouring country and many were taken prisoner in the streets who, lashed together like so many dogs, were dragged miserably away; whatever their cruel victors demanded in ransom, whether they had the means or no, they were compelled to promise and forced to pay.

In February 1140 Miles Gloucester burnt Winchcombe and unsuccessfully attacked Sudeley castle. The king and Earl Waleran of Worcester moved from Worcester to Little Hereford, then the earl of Worcester invaded Tewkesbury and burnt the magnificent house of the earl of Gloucester there.

In 1150 Worcester was besieged and sacked.

After 18 March 1151 King Stephen joined the siege of Worcester and made 2 siege castles against it [possibly Elmley Castle and the Herefordshire Beacon].

By 1154 whatever damage that had been done to Worcester in the sieges had been repaired for this year the town paid its tax in full, whereas other places had their taxes remitted by up to a third due to war damage.
In July 1184 Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd met King Henry II at Worcester after Henry had come to the border with an army. Rhys swore fealty and that he would return those lands which had taken, but he did not.
Rhys ap Gruffydd submitted to Henry II at Worcester and swore fealty promising hostages. Rhys and his accomplices who had laid waste the king’s lands for two years and slain promised to return the castles and lands he has taken over the past two years. But his relations, who stood out amongst his accomplices, he admitted to the king he was wretchedly unable to bring them to the king.
Rhys later came to King Henry at Gloucester and did not sent the hostages he had promised, or return those lands.

In 1189 Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd attacked Dyfed. King Richard sent Prince John and an army to deal with him. However John quickly made peace with the lesser princes at Worcester and returned to England.

During 1202 Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh died in a tournament at Worcester and was buried at Wigmore.

During the reign of King John (1199-1216) important cloth fairs were held in Worcester.

On 19 October 1216 King John died and was buried at Worcester. When the king’s tomb was opened in 1797 the king was found still wearing his robe. The remains of the king were intact, his robe of crimson damask and a monk's cowl undecayed though now largely colourless; on one side of him lay a sword, the bones of his left arm lying on his breast, his teeth quite perfect, his feet stood erect, the coffin which is of stone, lay even to the surface of the stone floor; his remains measured 5' 5".

On 13 September 1217 those present at the dedication of the newly built Worcester cathedral included Walter Lacy, Walter Clifford, Hugh Mortimer and Walter Beauchamp.

On 11 February 1218 letters of safe conduct were issued for Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth to come to Worcester. The next day Earl Ranulf of Chester, Walter Lacy, Hugh Mortimer, John Fitz Alan, Walter and Roger Clifford were ordered to conduct him hither to pay homage to the king.
On 15 March 1218 Hugh Mortimer, Henry Audley and John Lestrange were ordered to ensure the safety of the magnates of North Wales who were coming to the king at Worcester to pay homage at the close of Easter and thence to return.
On 7 June 1218 the earls of Essex and Hereford, Walter Lacy, Walter Clifford, Hugh Mortimer, Walter Beauchamp, William Brewer, John Marshal, Robert Corbet, John Lestrange, and 'an infinite multitude of other nobles' were present at dedication ceremony of Worcester cathedral.

On 22 May 1232 Worcester castle was ordered to be dismembered. The king's fee of it on the north side where the king's houses were, running up to the fee of Walter Beauchamp, was to go to the prior and monks of Worcester as agreed on the day King John was buried in the presence of Silvester late bishop of Worcester, Earl Ranulf of Chester and Lincoln, Earl William Ferrers of Derby, Walter Lacy, John Monmouth, Hugh Mortimer, Walter and Roger Clifford.

During 1241 the Welsh Princes were ordered to come to Worcester to pay homage to King Henry III.

On 20 February 1263 Earl Ferrers stormed Worcester.
By 10 May King Henry III, the Lord Edward, Sir John Grey, Sir James Audley and Sir Peter Montfort were at Worcester.
On 25 May 1263 the king ordered an army to form at Worcester on 1 August. It was to be led by the barons, Geoffrey Geneville [Ludlow], Earl Humphrey Bohun of Hereford, John Lestrange [Knockin], Reginald Fitz Peter [Bwlch y Dinas], Roger Chandos [Snodhill], Thomas Corbet [Caus], Robert Tattershall [Buckenham], John Muscegros, Walter Clifford, William Beauchamp of Elmley, William Braose [Oystermouth], Reginald Clifford, John Fitz John [Longtown], Robert Tregoz [Ewias Harold], John Giffard [Brimpsfield], Guy Brian [Llanstephan], Roger Mortimer [Wigmore], Fulk Fitz Warin [Whittington], John Fitz Alan [Clun, Oswestry], Humphrey Bohun junior [Brecon], Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn [Powis], William Valance [Pembroke] and William Devereux [Lyonshall]. Soon afterwards Worcester fell to the rebels and Earl Simon Montfort of Leicester led those of the barons who arrived for the muster against the king and Lord Edward.
Parliament was held at Oxford on 30 November 1264, but was then moved to Warwick. The Marchers barons refused to attend and so were attacked by the barons and after a half-hearted resistance were forced to surrender at Worcester after breaking down the bridges over the River Severn. A parliament was then held at Worcester about 10 December where the Marchers agreed to be exiled.
On 15 December 1264 at Worcester the captive King Henry III wrote to Hamo Lestrange, John Turbeville the elder [Rowlestone], Robert Turbeville, Hugh Turbeville, Matthew Gamages and other fellow Marchers.
‘Whereas Roger Mortimer, Roger Clifford, Roger Leybourne and their fellow Marchers have entered into a form of peace with the king and have directed their steps to Kenilworth to speak with the Lord Edward and confirm the peace, the king is amazed that they permit their men in the parts where they now are to make plunderings, damages and tolts which may prove to their great loss and the lesion of the said peace and which they should in no wise tolerate. Wherefore he commands them to cause their men to desist from such lest he should have to lay his hand upon them otherwise’.
Before 1 August 1265 John Giffard [Brimpsfield] with a large force of foot and horse joined the Lord Edward and together they took Worcester and broke down the bridge. On 1 August Edward made a dramatic night march from Worcester to Kenilworth and surprised the sleeping Montfort army.
On 8 August 1265, four days after the battle of Evesham, the victorious royalists were in Worcester dividing the spoils of battle.

On 12 December 1276 the parliament of Worcester after condemning Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd as a rebel ordered the royal army to form at Worcester on 24 June 1277.

On 1 June 1277 the king declared that Brian Brampton was too old for military service, hence his son, Brian Brampton Junior, was to be ready to serve Roger Mortimer in the muster at Worcester on 24 June.
About 29 August 1277 Rhys Fychan ap Rhys ap Maelgwn of Ceredigion did homage to King Edward I at Worcester.

In 1278 Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd married Eleanor the daughter of Earl Simon Montfort with King Edward himself standing sponsor at the door of Worcester cathedral.

After Prince Llywelyn’s final rebellion on 22 March 1282 the royal army was ordered to form at Worcester on 6 April.

On 8 April 1287 Robert Mortimer [Richards Castle] was buried before the altar of Saints Simon and Jude in Worcester cathedral. His widow Joyce was buried nearby before 13 March 1290.

Facts similar to these with full sources can be found in

A Political Chronology of Wales, 1066 to 1282 
(ISBN 1-899376-46-1) [2003]
now available as a single volume at £24.95


Copyright©1994-2004 Paul Martin Remfry