Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Ghost of Merton Abbey

Could Edmund Herierd, prior on the cusp of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, be the ghost we have been looking for?

Merton, like other houses following the Augustinian rule, was subject to episcopal jurisdiction and open to diocesan visitation.

Towards the end of 1304 a visitation of the priory during the voidance of the see of Winchester was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when various irregularities were alleged against the prior, Edmund Herierd.

Eventually, in consequence of these charges, the prior, whilst vehemently protesting his innocence, was compelled to resign on 25 September 1305. Permission was granted him to occupy rooms within the priory suitable for himself and any one member of the house whom he might choose to live with him; he was also assigned a squire of the body and a servant to attend on him, with a suitable allowance for each. (fn. 82)

The Bishop of Winchester notified the vacancy to the king, as patron, and licence was granted to elect a successor. The chapter met on 1 December, but could not agree, some voting for the re-election of the late prior and the rest making choice of William de Brokesburn. Apparently the numbers for each were equal, and a double return was made to the bishop, who endeavoured to bring about a compromise, but without success, and on 3 December certified their proceedings to the king. (fn. 83)

Edward I. issued a mandate to the bishop to provide a head for the priory of Merton 'out of the bosom of that church,' in order to settle the discords that had arisen since the cession of Prior Herierd. By the king's ordinance the elected persons came before the bishop, and of their own free will renounced all right they might claim from their election; but the proctors of the parties elected not having come with power of renunciation or of submitting to the bishop's ordinance, the bishop dismissed the elected persons. Thereupon the sub-prior and convent unanimously consented to the provision of a prior by the bishop if the royal assent were given. (fn. 84) The bishop's choice fell upon Geoffrey de Alkemondbury, one of the canons, and to him the temporalities were restored on 6 March 1305-6. (fn. 85)

During these proceedings the ex-prior endeavoured to strengthen his party among the canons by lavish entertainment and bringing counter-charges against his opponents, with the result that he was reduced to the position of an ordinary canon, and ordered to spend the remainder of his days with his brethren in the cloister. (fn. 86)

From: 'Houses of Austin canons: Priory of St Mary of Merton', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 2 (1967), pp. 94-102. URL: Date accessed: 03 August 2007.

"Reduced to the position of an ordinary canon, and ordered to spend the remainder of his days with his brethren in the cloister" he wanders the site to this day, unable to find peace until his bones are laid in the Chapter House; the right and proper resting place due a prior.

Prior, the title of which he was stripped by calumny, collusion and deceit.

No comments: