The Saxon Chronicle Entry for the Year 852, of the ‘E’ Manuscript.


First, religion is about history, it is not about the here and now, so with that in mind, I want to discuss the life and lives of clerics of Olde Engla Londe (England from 1538).

The Saxon Chronicle Entry for the Year 852, of the ‘E’ Manuscript. 

Below, is an entry in a Germanic text followed by an Englisce translation for year 852 CE of the Saxon Chronicle/Chronicon Saxonicum to give its proper title and not the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Which modern English historians give it, as none of the myriads of Germanic hordes that swarmed into Britain between the 5th and 6th-centuries knew themselves as Anglo-Saxons.  While keeping themselves each to the plots of land they ethnically cleansed to acquire.  However, in this case, The ‘E’ Manuscript (MS), aka The Laud MS, aka the Peterborough Chronicle, was written in Peterborough (Mearca-Mercian). Anyway, after a great fire at the Peterborough Benedictine monastery in 1116, which destroyed the library and some buildings. The original copy of the Chronicle kept there may have been lost at that time.  Or later, but in either case, shortly after a fresh copy was made.  Apparently copied from a Kentish version—most likely to have been from Canterbury, *Cantware. So there is nothing Saxon about the ‘E’ MS.   

(*Cantware is the Germanic term for the old kingdom of Kent, created by Hengest/Hengist the Jutish Warlord and first King of Cantware/Kent 455-488. Those that have read the Beowulf Saga will be familiar with the name Hengest.)

However, this is not a discussion on the ancient Germanic or the various dialects languages spoken within Britain from 449-1154, or where the 9 extant Saxon Chronicles were written. This OP is about a single entry in the Chronicle for a particular year, which in itself is very odd. The entry was not about the usual killing of the Welsh-foreigners or war, it was about how much rent was to be paid for some church land. 

The ‘E’ MS was written in old Germanic, and the later entries were written in Middle Germanic also referred to as Middle Englisce, with some Latin here and there.

As aforesaid, there is an entry within the MS, which is intriguing as it is a rent agreement between a Monastery and one Wulfred. Who had to pay his rent yearly to the Abbot and Monks of the Monastery of Peterborough. Well, these pious folk loved their refreshments and leisure time. It may come as no surprise to some that these religious folk found the time to shepherd their community, let alone their duties within the Monastery. The majority of the monk’s day in the Middle Ages was spent praying, worshipping in church, reading the Bible, and meditating. The rest of the day was spent working hard on chores around the Monastery. Well, the acquisitions for the rent were the norm for the time and was not solely for Peterborough, it was similar throughout England’s monastic life in the time.   

The scholar and cleric Oliver writing on the monasteries and monastic life around the 9th, 10th and 11th-century wrote: The architecture of the monasteries was rich, light, and effective. They had lofty pillars supporting pointed arches, and windows mullioned with stone, and lighted by glass gorgeously painted, and stained with transparent colours, depicting the history of Christ, and the lives of the saints and martyrs. Some of them were furnished with spires and battlements; and they possessed cloisters, dormitories, cells, a refectory, and a chapel. They also had capacious vaults for wine, ale, and other domestic stores, with dungeons for prisoners…The monks rose every day at the same hour, and the routine of prayer was prescribed by authority. At a given time they adjourned to labour in the garden or field, and thence back to the cloister or choir, the refectory or dormitory; and the monotony of their lives must have produced a monotony of feeling which would destroy the existence of spiritual devotion….[Rev. Geo. Oliver, D.D, (1846), An Account of the Religious Houses formerly situated on the eastern side of the River Witham, pp 14-17, R Spencer, 314, High Holborn-London]

Oliver added: Great quantities of ale were consumed by the religious houses—in the practise of hospitality, it is to be presumed. Fifteen hundred quarters of malt was the annual allowance in the priory of Norwich; and Inguphus laments, amongst other losses sustained during the fire at Croyland Abbey in the 11th-century, “the cellar and casks full of ale therein.” [ibid p. 15] Ingulphus, was Abbot of Crowland Abbey in Lincolnshire at the time stated.

We can understand why many people entered monastic life, I don’t doubt that the work was hard, but the benefits outweigh the hard labour. Than staying dirt-poor to a plot of land that was insufficient to support man and wife let alone a child. Property that a serf could not possibly own. Or working as indentured apprentices where one was no better than a slave or a dog. We’re programmed to look at those in a monastic environment, as being devout ascetics. With love in their heart and their God on their minds. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I previously stated, work was hard, but the rewards made up for all that labour they supposedly went through. What was in their hearts was probably one of the local whores, and on their minds was beer, lots of it, the finest Welsh ale, wine and mead too.

Beer rations were in the region of 1,500 quarts a year equal to 4 quarts a day or 8 pints. Plus you were well fed, and there was plenty of meat in your diet, and once yearly you had entertainment from each renter. So if your Monastery had 12 renters, there was entertainment every month. I cannot say what the entertainment was, but one can be sure it had nothing to do with an ascetic monastic lifestyle.

One has to remember that the church held vast sways of land obtained by gifts and forgery.  It was advantageous for some of that land be rented out to bring income to monasteries and Abbeys. 

(Why not try and read the Germanic text below if you are Englisce or Englisce speaker, albeit one of the many diverse Germanic dialects your Jutish, Angles (Eastengla, Midelangla, Mearca and Norðhymbra), Saxons (Eastsexa, Middelseaxe, Suðsexa, WestSexan), Magonsaete, Wreocansaete, Pecsaete, Hwicce, Bernicians, Linseys, Deiran and Frisian forefathers spoke. Later they would add Danish, Norse-Gael and Norse to the vocabulary melting pot. After 1066 further adding Langues d’ oïl (the dialect of old Normandy, France—not to be confused with spoken Modern French.))  

nota bene. On a lighter note!  You will see in the Germanic text lots of 7, sex, Her and Wælsces being written lots of time in their scribblings.  Don’t worry, your ancestors were not numerate or sex maniacs—rapist—yes!  They were more into genocide.  Here is a helping hand on how to read the gibberish, 7 means and, sex means six (6), Her means this year, and Wælsces and many variant spellings mean Foreigners, which mutated to Welsh and Wales.  

Entry 852 (Germanic text.) Saxon Chronicle/Chronicon Saxonicum ‘E’ MS

Her on þis tima leot Ceolred abbot of Medeshamstede 7 þa munecas Wulfrede to hande þet land of Sempigaham to þet forewearde þet æfter his dæi scolde þet land into þe minstre, 7 Wulfred scolde gifen þet land of Sliowaforda into Medeshamstede, 7 he scolde gife ilca gear into þe minstre sixtiga foðra wuda 7 twælf foður græfan 7 sex foður gearda 7 twa tunn(n)an fulle hlutres aloð 7 twa slægnæt* 7 sex hund hlafes 7 ten mittan Wælsces aloð** 7 ilca gear an hors 7 þrittiga scillinga 7 ane næht gefeormige. Her wæs wið se cining Burhred 7 Ceolred ærcebiscop and Tunberht biscop 7 Cenred biscop 7 Alhhun biscop 7 Berhtred biscop 7 Wihtred abbot 7 Werhtherd abbot, Æðelheard ealdorman, Hunberht ealdorman 7 feola oðre.[Manuscript “E: Bodleian MS Laud 636—Saxon Chronicle]

Modern Englisce Translation

  1. About this time Abbot Ceolred of Medhamsted (Peterborough), with the concurrence of the monks, let to hand the land of Sempringham to Wulfred, with the provision, that after his demise the said land should revert to the Monastery; that Wulfred should give the land of Sleaford to Meohamsted [sic], and should send each year into the Monastery sixty loads of wood, twelve loads of coal, six loads of peat, two tuns full of fine ale, two neats’ carcases*, six hundred loaves, and ten kilderkins** of Welsh ale; one horse also each year, and thirty shillings, and one night’s entertainment. This agreement was made in the presence of King Burhred, Archbishop Ceolnoth, Bishops Tunbert, Kenred, Aldhun, and Bertred; Abbots Witred and Weftherd, Aldermen Ethelherd and Hunbert, and many others. [Saxon Chronicle entry for 852 CE, translated from the original by Rev. James Ingram (1774-1850)] The brackets ( ) and [sic] are mine as these clerical scribes of old were notorious bad spellers.

* twa slægnæt/two neats’ carcases = slaughtered ewes

** Kilderkin equals 18 Imperial Gallons = 144 pints.

What do you say, did the monks of old have it good or what compared to the ordinary serf folk?

Keep safe!



Article URL :

%d bloggers like this: