A life of Adam Pode in fourteenth century Gloucester
Niall C.E.J. O’Brien
The medieval world ended sometime between 1485 and a time in the seventeenth century depending on your preference. That world left behind many buildings and landscape features to remind us of those far off days. The documents, manuscripts and books produced in those times capture pin pictures to shine across the ages. In these days of IPods I have found the services of Adam Pode of Gloucester to help open up the medieval world.
Adam Pode lived in the first half of the fourteenth century in the town of Gloucester, England. For much of the time that he appears in the record books he does so as a witness to some property deed or civil enquiry. The town of Gloucester was well situated on the banks of the River Severn to command the river trade and act as a hub for trade in the area. The corn trade was its principle business. In the international trade the town was overshadowed by Bristol and thus remained of only local importance. [N.M. Herbert (ed.), A history of the County of Gloucester, volume four, The City of Gloucester (Victoria County History, 1988), pp. 41-2]
Yet the town was by no means separated from the wider world. The Priory of Llanthony-by-Gloucester, located just south of the town, held extensive estates in Ireland for which published records exist. [Eric St. John Brooks (ed.) The Irish cartularies of Llanthony Prima & Secunda (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1953)] A person called Nicholas of Gloucester worked as carpenter for the royal castle in Ireland at Athlone around 1270. In the time of Adam Pode a person called John of Gloucester held two shops, two messuages and a curtilage in Drogheda, Ireland. Also living in Drogheda in the first half of the fourteenth century was Thomas Nanny, burgess of the town and his daughter Agnes married Robert of Gloucester. [James Mills & M.J. McEnery (eds.), Calendar of the Gormanston Register (University Press, Dublin, 1916), pp. 71, 80] Also in Ireland about the same time were William of Gloucester was keeper (1337-1339) of the writs at the Dublin judiciary bench and Brother Walter de Gloucester was guardian (1346-1348) of the Franciscan community in Dublin. [Philomena Connolly (ed.), Irish Exchequer Payments 1270-1446 (Irish Manuscript Commission, Dublin, 1998), pp. 2, 390, 394, 444]
Many local industries and trades grew up in the town. The fourteenth century, the time of Adam Pode, was its better days. In the fifteenth century the corn trade declined and few high profile merchants are ascribed to the town. [N.M. Herbert (ed.), A history of the County of Gloucester, volume four, The City of Gloucester (Victoria County History, 1988), pp. 41-2]
It is not yet known if Adam Pode was a native of Gloucester or if he came from some other part of the country. The family name of Pode appears in various records across England in medieval times. Richard and Roger Pode lived in Devon around the year 1238. [Henry Summerson (ed.), Crown pleas of the Devon Eyre of 1238 (Devon & Cornwall Record Society, New Series, Vol. 28, 1985), no. 373] John Pode lived in Essex around the years 1411 and 1424. [Kate Parkin (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem in the Public Record Office, Vol. XXII, 1422-1427 (Boydell Press & National Archives, 2003), nos. 380, 829] Another John Pode lived around the area of St. Mary Cray in the county of Kent about the year 1429. [Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem in the Public Record Office, Vol. XXIII, 1427-1432 (Boydell Press & National Archives, 2004), no. 235] Further north Alexander Pode lived at Thornton, Yorkshire around the year 1438. [Claire Noble (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem in the Public Record Office, Vol. XXV, 1437-1442 (Boydell Press & National Archives, 2009), no. 181]
We first meet Adam Pode on 23 June 1324 when he was a witness to a grant of a tenement in Gloucester from Lawrence son of Walter to his daughter Felicia and her husband John Coof. Another person called Richard Pode was among the seven witnesses but his relationship, if any, to Adam is unknown. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1893), no. 846]
Within a few years the nice family atmosphere of Gloucester was invaded by national politics. The rule, or misrule, of King Edward II aggravated many powerful people and his romantic attachment to court favourites like Piers Gaveston and High le Despenser the younger brought the wart of his Queen Isabella. In September 1326 Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, invaded England from their base in France. At first Edward II didn’t think much of their small army and levied troops to crush the invaders. But the barons refused to join the king’s army.
On 2 October Edward II abandoned London and fled west. The London mob seized a few hated figures and executed them while the city fell into disorder. On 9 October King Edward arrived in Gloucester where he established his headquarters. It is not known if Adam Pode supported the king who came to live in his town. Up until that time the only royal figure that Adam may have seen was the tomb effigy of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and Duke of Normandy. Robert died in February 1134 while in prison in Cardiff Castle. His tomb effigy was made about a hundred years later in the church of St. Peter’s Abbey in Gloucester (after the Reformation this church became Gloucester Cathedral and seat of the new diocese of Gloucester). [www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Curthose – accessed 31 March 2013]
King Edward stayed for only a short while in Gloucester. The rebel army was closing in and Edward went west into Wales. There he hoped to raise an army in the Despenser lands but failed. By 31 October the king had failed and abandoned by all except a few retainers. On 16 November 1326 King Edward was captured along with Hugh le Despenser the Younger (his father was hanged and beheaded a few days before). For a time the king was imprisoned at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. There on 20 January 1327 he abdicated the throne in favour of his son, the future Edward III. [www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_II_of_England – accessed 31 March 2013]
Within a few days the new government of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer began to show its authority. Twenty years of defeats at the hands of the Scots and the Welsh along with ten years of civil conflict within England had drained the royal treasury. A Subsidy Roll was issued to collect taxation. From this taxation we learn some information about Adam Pode. It seems that Adam Pode had his principle business, and possible dwelling house, in the West Ward of Gloucester. Here he was assessed for tax. Adam Pode paid 3s and Richard Pode paid 2s while most people in the ward paid 6d. [Information gathered from the Gloucestershire Record Office copy of the Gloucestershire Subsidy Roll, 1327] This would place Adam among the wealthier people in Gloucester. How he came to acquire such standing is unknown.
A rental of Gloucester house made in 1455 tells us that Adam Pode once had a tenement in Grase Lane (in the north-east part of the town) which he held in the time of Edward II. The property was previously held by the Dernlove family in the time of Henry III. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Rental of all the Houses in Gloucester A.D. 1455 compiled by Robert Cole (Gloucester, 1890), p. 62] They sold to the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, the Prior of which held the tenement in 1455. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 684] As the rental does not record Adam Pode holding this tenement in the time of Edward III it is likely that he sold his rights shortly after 1327. It is unknown if Adam sold his rights for personal reasons or if the disturbed political situation had forced his hand.
Later in October 1327 that political situation came to Gloucester. In April 1327 Edward Plantagenet was moved to Berkeley Castle near Gloucester to continue his imprisonment. There, sometime between 21 September and 11 October he was murdered. Local rumour said that he was suffocated. The more dramatic and gruesome story only appeared about fifty years later. Following Edward’s death all the great and the good, including Queen Isabella, came to Gloucester for the state funeral. Edward was buried in the abbey church of St. Peter’s. Later Edward III erected an elaborate tomb over the grave. [www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_II_of_England – accessed 31 March 2013]
Tomb of King Edward II at Gloucester cathedral
Following all the prom and ceremony life returned to normal in Gloucester and Adam Pode resumed his usual role of witness to the town’s property deals. On 6 November 1328 Adam Pode was one of eight witnesses to the surrender by Agnes Tewkesbury to her two sons of a tenement between the Bridges in Gloucester. Adam Hondsum was also a witness as he was to the earlier deed of 1324. Another of the witnesses was Lawrence Seuere. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 860]
A year later Lawrence Severe joined Adam Pode to witness another grant of property in Gloucester. This was on 29 September 1329 when Alice Louering and her son Geoffrey gave a twenty year lease to Henry ate Green and Alice his wife of a shop with an upper room (solarium) built over it between the Bridges. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 861]
On 30 August 1330 Adam Pode became witness, along with Adam Hondsum, Richard Pode and Lawrence Severe (then town bailiff) and three others, to another Gloucester lease agreement. In this lease Walter Dauyd gave a tenement between the Bridges to John of Ruderwas and his wife Agnes. Ruderwas was a fisherman and the tenement extended from the street down to the River Severn where it included the adjoining fishery rights. The said tenement was next door to a tenement held by Adam Hondsum who was also described as a fisherman. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, no. 865]
The fishery trade was an important business in a town like Gloucester. In medieval times a fish base diet was part and parcel of religious life and Gloucester had a large population in religious life. There were so many religious houses in the county and town that the county acquired the proverb of “As sure as God’s in Gloucestershire”. [http://www.mspong.org/picturesque/Gloucester – accessed on 1 April 2013] About a third of the northern half of town was occupied by the large abbey of St. Peter, one of the richest Benedictine houses in England. Here also was the Priory of St. Oswald. In the southern half of the town were the houses of Black Friars and Grey Friars. Outside the southern wall of the town was the Priory of Llanthony-by-Gloucester, one of the richest Augustinian houses in England. [John Rhodes (ed.), A calendar of the Registers of the Priory of Llanthony by Gloucester 1457-1466, 1501-1525 (Bristol & Gloucester Archaeological Society, vol. 15, 2002), p. xiv] Beyond the western wall, in the land between the Bridges, a place so well-known by Adam Pode stood the large Hospital of St. Bartholomew. [John Langton, ‘Late medieval Gloucester: some data from the rental of 1455’, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1977, p. 260]
Many of these religious houses were important landowners within the town. In 1455 about 55% of properties were held by various religious houses. Some houses were happy to take their chief rents and do little to enhance their properties while other houses particularly that of Llanthony-by-Gloucester took an active role in developing their properties. At times one house rented property from another and then subleased to a third person such as in 1455 when Richard the Baker rented a tenement from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital while the Hospital rented the tenement from Llanthony. At the same time the lay people accounted for about 45% of property holders. [John Langton, ‘Late medieval Gloucester: some data from the rental of 1455’, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1977, pp. 266, 269, 270]
Map of medieval Gloucester with some of the locations mentioned in the text
On 28 June 1331 Adam Pode, burgess of Gloucester, moved out from the ranks of onlookers to become a player in the property market and become a lay property holder. On that date he acquired from Roger the Hooper, burgess, a piece of land lying between the two Bridges. It was sited between the tenement formerly belonging to Thomas of Tewkesbury and that formerly belonging to Roger of Hynehomme. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 869] Roger the Hooper had acquired the land from Richard the Blacstar on 23 July 1311. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1893), no. 796] Richard the Blacstar was clerk of the town of Gloucester in around 1275. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 647]
This deed of June 1331 only mentions Adam Pode and not his wife. It was usual in transfers of property that the name of the recipient and his wife were named. It seems likely therefore that Adam’s wife, the name of whom we do not yet know, was dead by that time. They had at least one child, a son called John. This John was of legal age in 1348 and thus born sometime before 1327.
A few years later, on 8 October 1336, Adam Pode was a member of the jury panel at an inquisition taken before the King’s escheator of Gloucestershire. They were called to assess if it was to the damage of the king if Thomas Crook of Gloucester and Robert Dabetot granted property to the Abbey of St. Peter of Gloucester. Thomas Crook was granting a messuage and four shops in Gloucester while Dabetot was giving 4½ acres at Colethrop. The king had previously allowed the abbey to acquire £20 worth of property and the jury considered that it would not be damaging to the king to allow the transfer to proceed. [Edward Alex Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, 1910), p. 259]
On 10 January 1337 Adam Pode was back in his usual position as a witness to Gloucester life. Along with Richard Pode and three others he witnessed a grant by Edith Green to John Cluet, burgess, of six shops with curtilages between the two west Bridges. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 885, part 3] Gloucester was getting to be a popular destination for tourists by that time. Well, to the medievalists, the visitors were on a solemn pilgrimage to the abbey church of St. Peter’s and the tomb of Edward II. The money left by these pilgrims enriched the abbey and allowed further building work to embellish the site. Around the town shops and inns flourished to serve the pilgrims every need. Some of these inns continued in business into the twentieth century. [H.V. Morton, In search of England (Methuen, London, 1931), p. 162]
In February 1340 Adam Pode was again a witness to life in Gloucester between the Bridges. On this occasion he witnessed two deeds of transfer from Walter Twere (fisherman) to Stephen the Heir (dyer), both of Gloucester. In this first deed Walter granted Stephen a shop held by Alice of Dene while in the second deed Walter gave Stephen a tenement for ten years provided Stephen carried out repairs to the premises during that time. Otherwise the lease would be declared forfeit. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, nos. 899, 900]
It seems that Stephen the Heir executed those repairs as in his will of March 1344 he granted the tenement to Isabella Coof and her son, Robert. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 918] Clear prove is not available but it would seem that Isabella Coof was the wife of Stephen as in September 1344 Robert, son and heir of Stephen held the tenement. Robert was also a dyer like his father. On 8 September Robert granted the tenement to Nicholas the Mulleward of Gloucester (cook). About two weeks later, on 20 September Nicholas returned the grant to Robert the Heir and his wife, Margery, daughter of Nicholas. Adam Pode was there to witness the deed of 20 September. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 923] It would appear that Robert and Margery got married between the two dates of September and that the tenement was made an asset for Margery if Robert should die before her.
On 25 March 1348 the probate of Adam’s will was granted. In it Adam Pode, burgess of Gloucester, bequeathed 3s to the Friars Preachers, 3s to the Friars Minor, 12d to the Carmelites and 2s to the Hospital of St. Bartholomew. Adam also gave 12d to the maintenance fund for Gloucester Bridge. To his son, John Pode, Adam gave his tenement between the Bridges. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, no. 939] This was the land he acquired from Roger the Hooper in June 1331.
The rental of 1455 records this tenement held by Adam Pode between the Bridges in the time of Edward III. It says the tenement was vacant land when held by Adam for which he paid landgavel of 2s per year. By 1455 the land was built upon and held by the Prior of Llanthony. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Rental of all the Houses in Gloucester A.D. 1455, p. 66]
In all the time that we have known Adam Pode we have yet to find where he lived in Gloucester. His contemporary Richard Pode lived during the reign of Edward II in Grase Lane. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Rental of all the Houses in Gloucester A.D. 1455, p. 64] In the Subsidy Roll of 1327 Adam Pode was assessed for tax in the West Ward which would suggest that he lived in that part of town. [Information gathered from the Gloucestershire Record Office copy of the Gloucestershire Subsidy Roll, 1327]
The property portfolio of Adam Pode that we know of raises questions as to his wealth and means. We are not told what trade, if any, he was involved in. He was a burgess of the town and this gave some standing yet he does not appear to have become a town bailiff. By the charter of 1200 the town was governed by two bailiffs, elected annually and Adam is not on the list. [N.M. Herbert (ed.), A history of the County of Gloucester, volume four, The City of Gloucester (Victoria County History, 1988), pp. 371-4]
His changing property portfolio suggests fluctuating wealth. He sold a tenement in the near centre of town and purchased a plot of land outside the western wall that he left vacant. The donations in his will were moderate and not those of a wealthy man. In the 1327 Subsidy Roll Adam Pode paid 3s in tax which was above average for the West Ward. His contemporaries like Richard Pode paid 2s, Adam Hondsum paid 3s, Lawrence Severe paid 4s and Richard Severe paid 12s but most people only paid 6d. This information and the fact he left land vacant when he could have got better income from it by building upon it suggests that Adam was comfortable and was without any financial need. [Information gathered from the Gloucestershire Record Office copy of the Gloucestershire Subsidy Roll, 1327]
Unfortunately for John Pode, he did not live long to enjoy his inheritance. He died sometime before January 1349, possibly a victim of the Black Death. In his will John left 5s to the Hospital of St. Bartholomew along with 1½d in bread for the poor of the Hospital. He also left 10s to the Friars Minor. To his wife, Margery, John left the family tenement between the Bridges in Ebrugg Street with the instruction that it be sold. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, nos. 945, 1014]
Sometime later Margery Pode left widowhood and married William Head, burgess of Gloucester. The quality of their relationship is unknown but that tenement between the Bridges caused some discussion between the couple. In his will John Pode instructed his wife, as executor, to sell the land but she did not. Instead she held onto it, perhaps in a way holding on to the memory of her long dead love, cruelly taken from her in that terrible event of the Black Death. The retention of the property may also be her husband’s doing and Margery may have wished to sell it earlier.
As Margery approached her own death, she could not meet her first love in the next world without fulfilling his wishes. On 8 October 1384 Margery and William Head sold the tenement between the bridges to Robert Townsend. Sometime after this Margery died. On 8 May 1389 William Head met his friend Robert Townsend and purchased from him another tenement between the Bridges, which would suggest that he didn't wish to sell the Pode tenement in the first place. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, nos. 1014, 1022] At some later date the land was built upon and was held by the Prior of Llanthony in 1455. [W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Rental of all the Houses in Gloucester A.D. 1455, p. 66]
After 1384 we lose trace of the extended Pode family and one of our witnesses upon the life of medieval Gloucester. It is hoped to explore other stories from medieval Gloucester in a later article.