Ghent, St Peter's

Historical contexts: relations between counts of Flanders and rulers of England, originating in late ninth century with marriage between Count Baldwin II and Ælfthryth, daughter of King Alfred the Great; Dunstan’s exile in 956-7, when he is assumed to have stayed at St Peter’s abbey (cf. B's Vita S. Dunstani, and Adelard).  Later connections.  The abbot of St Peter’s held an estate of 2 sulungs at Lewisham, Kent, with the income of a harbour, TRE and TRW (GDB 12v).  An important source for the early history of the endowment of St Peter’s is the mid-eleventh-century register of the abbey’s benefactors, known as the Liber Traditionum (ed. Fayen).  For an edition of the abbey’s charters, see van Lokeren, Chartes et Documents; see also Diplomata Belgica, ed. Gysseling and Koch, i. 85-221.  For a critical examination of the surviving corpus of single sheets, see Oppermann, Die älteren Urkunden des Klosters Blandinium

The estate at Lewisham (with associated interests at Greenwich and Woolwich, on the river Thames) was probably given to St Peter’s in the tenth century, perhaps by Ælfthryth herself (during the reign of Edward the Elder), or perhaps by another party at a later date.  It is unlikely that the abbey was able to retain full control of the estate during the viking wars of the early eleventh century, but it is clear (from Domesday Book) that the estate was back in the hands of St Peter’s before the end of the reign of Edward the Confessor. Two records dating from the middle of the eleventh century represent aspects of the abbey’s view of the circumstances in which it acquired and subsequently recovered the land.  An entry in the abbey’s Liber Traditionum states that ‘Elstrudis comitissa’ (i.e. Ælfthryth) gave her hereditas at Lewisham to St Peter’s abbey, in 918 (ed. Fayen, pp. 52-3 (no. 60)); and a document extant in single-sheet form records an undertaking which Edward the Confessor made at St Peter’s on 25 December 1016, soon after the beginning of his period of exile from England, to the effect that he would restore the estate at Lewisham, with Greenwich and Woolwich, to the abbey, should he ever manage to recover his father’s kingdom (S (Add.) 997a).

The archives of St Peter’s contain a spray of charters relating to its interests in Kent, including three which are dated before the Conquest; for a most ingenious discussion of these charters as a group, see Dhondt, ‘La donation d’Elftrude à Saint-Pierre de Gand’.  S (Add.) 1205a purports to be the charter by which ‘Elstrudis comitissa’ granted her hereditas at Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich, to St Peter’s abbey in 918.  S 728 is a charter, ostensibly issued in August 964, by which King Edgar granted Lewisham to St Peter’s abbey, with its appurtenances at Greenwich, Woolwich, Mottingham and Coombe; the grant is said to have been made at the instigation of Archbishop Dunstan (with a curious allusion to Dunstan’s control of the abbey when in exile there during the reign of King Eadwig), but the charter also mentions the earlier grant by ‘Elstrudis’.  And S 1002 is a charter of King Edward the Confessor, dated 1044, confirming the original grant by ‘Elstrudis’, specifying further properties among the appurtenances of Lewisham in Kent, and adding a grant of land in London; no mention is made of King Edgar’s grant, or of any undertaking by Edward himself on his visit to Ghent in December 1016.  All three of these charters are blatantly spurious as they stand; but whereas S (Add.) 1205a is, in effect, a purely ‘local’ production (based, as Dhondt showed, in part on the entry in the Liber Traditionum, and in part on a later-tenth-century Flemish charter), S 728 and 1002 mix passages which served the forger’s purposes with elements which must have been derived ultimately from genuine Anglo-Saxon charters of the tenth and eleventh centuries.  S 1002 has been associated with the group of forgeries regarded as the work of Osbert de Clare, prior of Westminster; but its production could not easily be separated from that of the other charters for Ghent relating to the same group of estates, and its similarity (in certain respects) to the Westminster forgeries is capable of other explanations.

A copy of S 1002 occurs in a Chartae Antiquae roll of the late twelfth century (see Conway Davies, pp. 170 and 174-8).  The earliest copies of the charters preserved in the archives of St Peter’s abbey date from the second half of the thirteenth century, and appear to have been produced in connection with a dispute in progress at that time (see Dhondt, pp. 142-3).  The charters occur as a group in two cartularies: Ghent, Rijksarchief, Archives de l’État à Gand, Abbaye de Saint-Pierre à Gand, 1st ser., no. 7 (Davis 560), written in the thirteenth century, and Ghent, U.L., MS. 536 (Davis 561), written in the fifteenth century with the abbey’s English properties specifically in mind.  The interest claimed by the bishops of Rochester in the church of Lewisham accounts for the presence of copies of S 728 and 1002 in a register of Bishop Hamo Hethe (Registrum Hamonis Hethe, ed. Johnson, pp. 31-3).

<Check: Ghent, Rijksarchief, Archives de l’Etat à Gand, Abbaye de Saint-Pierre à Gand, Charters no. 124 (s. xiii) - vidimus of S 1002 (et al.?) by apostolic notary G. Le Noreys, London, 1 July 1287.>  <NB letter from NV, 22.i.94, re. BN coll. Moreau 284, fols. 270r-271r.>

Among the other documents preserved in the archives of Ghent is a charter, issued at Saint-Omer on 13 November 1056, by which Count Baldwin V of Flanders confirmed certain possessions in the county of Lens to St Peter’s abbey (van Lokeren, no. 133; Gysseling and Koch, no. 100).  The charter survives in what would appear to be its original form (Rijksarchief Gent, fonds Sint-Pietersabdij, charters no. 133); and is attested by Harold, dux.  For further discussion, see Grierson, ‘A Visit of Earl Harold to Flanders in 1056’.


Royal diplomas.  728; 1002.


See also S (Add.) 997a and 1205a.


Select bibliography

Round, Calendar, pp. 500-5; Matthew, Norman Monasteries, p. 19.  For Lewisham, see Mon. Angl. i. 550-1 and ii. 900-1; Mon. Angl. (rev. ed.) vi. 987-8.

Dhondt, J., ‘La donation d’Elftrude à Saint-Pierre de Gand’, Académie royale de Belgique: Bulletin de la commission royale d’histoire 105 (1940), pp. 117-64.  Fayen, A., Liber Traditionum Sancti Petri Blandiniensis, Cartulaire de la Ville de Gand, 2nd ser., Chartes et documents i (Ghent, 1906).  Grierson, P., ‘The Early Abbots of St. Peters of Ghent’, Revue Bénédictine xlviii (1936), pp. 129-46.  Grierson, P., ‘The Relations between England and Flanders before the Norman Conquest’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 4th ser. xxiii (1941), pp. 71-112.  Grierson, P., ‘A Visit of Earl Harold to Flanders in 1056’, English Historical Review 51 (1936), pp. 90-7.  Gysseling, M., and A. C. F. Koch, ed., Diplomata Belgica ante annum Millesimum Centesimum Scripta, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1950), i. 85-221.  Johnson, C., ed., Registrum Hamonis Hethe Diocesis Roffensis A.D. 1319-1352 (Oxford, 1948).  <Keynes 1991, pp. 177-81.>  van Lokeren, A., Chartes et Documents de l’Abbaye de Saint Pierre au Mont Blandin a Gand, 2 vols. (Ghent, 1868-71).  Oppermann, O., Die älteren Urkunden des Klosters Blandinium und die Anfänge der Stadt Gent, 2 vols. (Utrecht, 1928), reviewed by C. Johnson, English Historical Review xliii (1928), pp. 615-17.


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