Chester, described in the 890s as ‘a deserted city in Wirral’ (ASC, s.a. 893), was ‘restored’ in 907 (ASC, Mercian Register), presumably by Æthelred, ealdorman of the Mercians, and his wife Æthelflæd.  The church which came to be known as St Werburg’s was probably founded in Chester at about this time, and appears to have been served by secular canons.  St Werburg (daughter of Wulfhere, king of the Mercians) became a nun at Ely, and was closely associated with monasteries at Threckingham (Lincs.) and Hanbury (Staffs.); she died in the early eighth century, and her relics were translated from Hanbury to Chester in the first half of the tenth century.  It was refounded as a Benedictine abbey in the early 1090s, by Hugh I, earl of Chester.

Only a single bifolium survives from what would appear to have been the principal cartulary of St Werburg’s, written in the latter part of the thirteenth century (BL Harley 2071, fols. 38-9 (Davis 228)).  We are therefore largely dependent on a later cartulary of the abbey, written in the first half of the fourteenth century (BL Harley 1965 (Davis 229)); see Chartulary of the Abbey of St. Werburgh, Chester, ed. Tait. The first entry is Earl Hugh’s charter confirming the foundation of the Benedictine abbey. The text of S 667, dated 958 (‘dcccclviii’), was entered as an afterthought in space left blank at the beginning of this manuscript, by someone other than the compiler of the cartulary itself. The charter was printed by Dugdale ‘ex vetusto exemplari penes Willielmum Vernon de S[h]akerley in com. Lanc. generosum. an. 1630’ (Mon. Angl. i. 200).  Dugdale’s text is abbreviated in the same ways as the text in the fourteenth-century cartulary (omitting the boundary clause, and with no more than the king’s name from the witness-list); so it would appear that his reference is to an ancient copy in the cartulary, as opposed to a lost original.  

Randle Holme (d. 1707), of Chester, son of Randle Holme (1627-1700), of Chester. MSS. of RH were acquired by Harley (Harley MSS 1920-2180). Harley 1965 belonged to RH in 1649.  Copies of 12 originals made by RH, when abbey in hands of Capt. Whitworth; BL Harley 2071, fols. 18 ff. Harley 2060, f. 37: s. xvii copy, dated 858 - derivative? Harley 2071, f. 17: s. xvii; copy, dated 858 - direct from cartulary? Harley 1967, f. 184: s. xvii; copy, dated 858 - derivative? <Add. 6032, f. 50v-51r: s. xviii Cheshire collections; copy of copy, dated 857.>

A single royal diploma: S 667, dated 958 (‘dcccclviii’), by which Edgar, ‘king of the Mercians’, granted various estates in Flint and Cheshire to the community of St Werburg’s.  A very interesting charter from a diplomatic viewpoint.  Proem based on Sedulius and Aldhelm (see Tait).  Cf. S 677 (EHD 109), S 712a (the Ballidon charter), and S 723. It should be noted that the charter of King Edgar accounts for a relatively small proportion of the church’s recorded endowment TRE and TRW (GDB 263rv).



Royal diploma.  667.

Select bibliography

WM, GP, pp. 308-9; Mon. Angl. i. 199-202 and 985-7; Not. Mon. (Cheshire), no. <000>; Mon. Angl. (rev. ed.) ii. 370-401; VCH Cheshire iii. 132-46; MRH, p. 62; HRH, p. 39.

  • Burne, R. V. H., The Monks of Chester: the History of St Werburgh’s Abbey (London, 1962)  <not yet seen>
  • Munday, N. J., trans., The Life of St. Werburg by Goscelin the Monk (Chester, 1974) 
  • Tait, J., ed., The Chartulary or Register of the Abbey of St. Werburgh, Chester, 2 vols., Chetham Society, ns 79 and 82 (1920-3) 
  • Thacker, A. T., ‘Anglo-Saxon Cheshire’, VCH Cheshire I (1987)
  • Thacker, A. T., ed., The Earldom of Chester and its Charters (= Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society 71) (1991)
  • Thacker, A., ‘The Cult of King Harold at Chester’, The Middle Ages in the North-West, ed. <A. N. Other> (Oxford, 1996), pp. 155-76
  • Keynes, 'Lost and Found', p. 53, with n. 42, and 'Edgar', pp. 13 and 15-16
  • Lewis, C. P.,  'Edgar, Chester, and the Kingdom of the Mercians, 957-9', Edgar, ed. Scragg, pp. 104-23