Friday, July 25, 2014

Anselm Basset: hunting and his life

Anselm Basset: hunting and his life

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

On 5th May 1266 King Henry III granted Anselm Basset a licence for life to hunt with his own dogs. The king was at Northampton that day when Roger de Leyburn recommended that it would be a nice idea to give Anselm Basset such a licence. The licence given to Anselm Basset allowed him to hunt with his own dogs throughout the king’s forests in the Counties of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Southampton (Hampshire), except in the New Forest. The game that Anselm Basset could hunt for was hare, fox, badger and cat.[1]

Hunting the hare in medieval times was done with sight dogs rather than by scent and only the nobility were allowed to have these dogs. The dogs needed to be fast as the hare can run up to 35 miles per hour. The hare lives in a shallow nest near the surface and not in a deep burrow like rabbits. This makes them better for hunting as they will continue to run while a rabbit being chased by a dog would go to ground as quickly as possible.

Medieval hunting

Not all medieval hares lived in the open for Anselm Basset and his hunting dogs to chase. In around 1241 William de Caldwell and others entered the free warren belonging to Robert de Boyton, Suffolk, without licence and chased the hares belong to Robert within. The intruders took some hares home.[2]     

Yet as early as 1516, Thomas More wrote in Utopia that,

“Thou should rather be moved with pity to see a silly innocent hare murdered of a dog, the weak of the stronger, the fearful of the fierce, and the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful. Therefore, all this exercise of hunting is a thing unworthy to be used of free men”.

By the 19th century the sport of hare coursing had become popular among the working class yet a large number of people were against it. In 2005 hare coursing was made illegal in the United Kingdom. 
If Anselm Basset lived in our time not only would hunting hares be most unpopular but hunting foxes with dogs is also against the law since 2005. It is sometimes said that fox hunting with greyhounds only started in Norfolk about the year 1534 but hunting with dogs was a much older practice. The third animal for which Anselm Basset had a licence to hunt was the badger and this animal is also now off the hunting list. The badger is a protected species and to do any activity near a badger home needs a very special licence which is extremely hard to get.

The fourth animal that Anselm Basset could hunt across four counties, the cat, is now no longer possible. In this case the wild-cat is not so much a protected species as it is no longer seen in England. A small population of wild-cat can be seen in Scotland and some parts of Europe but not anywhere near the numbers of previous times.

As an aside to this story it is noted that the some land at Pihteslee (Northampton) was held of the king by John de Engayn by the serjeanty of finding sustenance for the king’s dogs of greyhounds and brachets. These dogs were used for hunting wolves, foxes, cats, badgers and hares in the forests of the four counties of Northampton, Huntingdon, Oxford and Buckinghamshire.[3]  

As previously said, Anselm Basset was given licence to hunt across four counties which is a big area when you consider that most modern hunts only cover a few parishes. Yet Anselm Basset wanted some more and in April 1280 he was allowed to hunt for hares and foxes in the chase of Bristol.[4] This vast spread of territory should have satisfied any person and countless number of hunting dogs yet not for Anselm Basset; he wanted still more.

Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden the forbidden fruit of the New Forest and the king’s forests of Hampshire were just too much not to have a bite or two. Sometime around 1279 Anselm Basset with John Giffard of Brumesfeud, Ralph Daubeny, Simon Segre, Thomas de Morton and Walter Balle, huntsman of John Giffard, went hunting and capturing deer in the King’s forests of Bere and Aisshele in Hampshire. For this they were indicted and convicted before the justices’ itinerant of the forest in Hampshire. The convicted should have been just punishment but the unsatisfied hunters wanted deer heads on their living room wall and not a conviction letter. Over the winter of 1280 they used their connections at court and on 16th February 1280 royal pardon for all trespasses committed by Anselm Basset, and the others.[5]

After these transgressions Anselm Basset and his friends should have had their lesson but no they wanted more. Sometime in late 1279 or early 1280 Anselm Basset and his friends of John Giffard, of Brumesfell, Simon de Segre, Thomas de Morton, Geoffrey le Aleblaster, Percival le Ireys and Walter Balle, of all the trespasses done by them in the New Forest, co. Southampton, in hunting in the New Forest and captured deer within. The extensive hunting licence which Anselm Basset got in 1266 specifically excluded the New Forest but then who reads the small writing on a licence, even if it is in big type.

The intruders were indicted before Roger de Clifford and the other justices in eyre for pleas of the forest and convicted. A heavy fine of 500 marks was imposed on Anselm, John, Simon, Geoffrey and Walter; while 30 marks was imposed on Thomas and Percival. Once again the unsatisfied hunters went off to the royal court to clear their names. On 26th March 1280 they received a royal pardon for all the trespasses done by them in the New Forest.[6]

The fun of the chase and the greater fun of hunting in forbidden places must have excited Anselm Basset very much. Yet for other people with the Basset surname the hunt presented dangers not just for the hunted animal but also for the hunter. In the autumn of 1241 Gilbert Basset of Wycombe was out hunting when his horse tripped on a root and Gilbert was thrown off. Gilbert Basset survived the fall but was severely paralysis and died from complications a few weeks later.[7] 

The life of Anselm Basset

The early history and parentage of Sir Anselm Basset is as yet unclear. It is said that he was born in about 1226 but this is unverified. It would appear that he was from Somerset as his earliest property deeds relate to that county. His mother was Isabel Basset and she was still living in 1264 when she and her second husband, Bartholomew de Empnebergh (Emmeberghe) granted the service of half a knight’s fee in Catcott (2 miles north of Moorlinch) to her son, Anselm Basset. The abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was to take Anselm hostage and ensure the restoration to Isabel de Empnebergh if Anselm should die without any children.[8]

In 1262 Anselm Basset was recorded as having property interests at Saunford and Wynford along with the advowson of both places. By 1268 the priory of Berliz had purchased the advowson of Wynford and 100 shillings of rent from the manor.In the same year of 1268 Anselm Basset presented Henry de Monte Forti to the rectory of Pyworthy in Devon. It is not known how Anselm Basset came to have the advowson of Pyworthy. In 1262 Margaret de Mahewe held the advowson .[9] 

In 1267 Anselm Basset made a lease for life to Roger de Wyk of a messuage and half a hide of land at Saunford at 12 pence per year. Anselm Basset also had a half knight’s fee at Stokes Giffard and Catcott along with a carucate of land at Ayston. In 1262 he granted some of this property in Stokes Giffard and Saunford to Bartholomew de Empnebergh and Isabella, his wife (Anselm’s mother) for the life of Isabel without reversion to Anselm. If Anselm Basset died without heirs all the property would revert to Isabel de Empnebergh.[10]

In 1265 Anselm Basset purchased the interest on a mill and a virgate of land at Wynford from William de Kent for eight marks. In 1280 Basset’s widow would claim a third of this mill for her dower.[11]
On 24th July 1266, at the royal court at Kenilworth, Adam de Langerugge of Somerset was admitted into the king's peace while Anselm Basset and Thomas del Pyn, both of Somerset, made pledged in the king's court, before the king, for his good behaviour. On the same day William de Cuille was admitted to the king’s peace, on mainprise of Anselm Basset and Walter de Deineford of Wiltshire.[12]

The affairs of Anselm Basset were not all concerned with Somerset and the West Country; he also had interests near London. About the year 1268 Sir Anselm Basset granted to Richard de Empnebergh (possible kinsman of the above Bartholomew de Empnebergh), of all the land in Chakenden, near London, which was formerly the dower land of Matilda Marmyun, until John Marmyun, son and heir of William Marmyun, was of lawful age. About the year 1273 Richard demised these lands to Sir Adam de Strattona in return for 50 marks.[13]

Sometime before October 1265 Anselm Basset got married. His new wife was a widow, Margaret de Berkeley, daughter of Thomas de Berkeley of Berkeley castle in Gloucestershire. Margaret had previously married Sir John FitzMatthew (died 1261) and had two children, Matthew FitzJohn and Joan. But Margaret de Berkeley had married Anselm without a royal licence and so on 18th October 1265 Margaret got a royal pardon for her offence. This pardon was given because of the good service given by Anselm Basset to the king.[14]

Margaret’s mother was Joan de Somery, daughter of Sir Ralph de Somery of Dudley, Worcestershire by Margaret Marshal, sister of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. A granddaughter of Sir Ralph de Somery, Margaret (daughter of Roger de Somery) married Ralph Basset (d. 1265) of Drayton in Staffordshire.[15] It is not clear if Ralph Basset was any relation of Anselm Basset. 

At the time of his marriage to Margaret de Berkeley, Sir Anselm Basset held lands in Somerset and Gloucestershire. These were added to when he purchased lands at Cam and Uley in Gloucestershire from Margaret’s brothers, Richard and William de Berkeley. The 30 acres of land at Cam was purchased from Richard de Berkeley.[16] 

Yet it would seem that Anselm Basset had interests in Uley before his marriage to Margaret de Berkeley. About 1250 John Stout of Uley granted all his land in Tetecumbe, within the village of Uley, to the prior and convent of St. Bartholomew at Gloucester. Later Sir Anselm Basset approved of the grant and released all his claims to the prior.[17]

Away from matters of property and marriage, on 15th May 1267 Anselm Basset successful petitioned the king for a pardon for Henry de Mirifenna for the death of Adam le Muner.[18] The circumstances of this death are unknown.

Two years later Anselm Basset received his own pardon for non-compliance. On 6th February 1269 Anselm Basset received a royal pardon, by the testimony of John Giffard (his hunting friend mentioned earlier), for his part in not observing the Provisions of Oxford and up to the 10th March 1268.[19]

In 1273 Anselm Basset was among a number of witnesses to observe the quit-claim by Ralph de Bagepuz of his rights in the moor and woods of Cheddar to William, Bishop of Bath and Wells. In return the Bishop granted Ralph ten acres near the Island of Anderdesye.[20]

In January 1276 Anselm Basset appointed Roger Perceval as his attorney in Ireland in all pleas and plaints for two years.[21] This is the first time that any reference source has connected Anselm Basset with Ireland. His involvement with Ireland is unknown. There was a family called Basset with interests in Dublin about 1300 but it is unclear if there was any connection between them and Anselm Basset.[22]  

Deer hunting = what Anselm was doing in the New Forest

With all his time spent in hunting and seeking royal pardons Anselm Basset left his financial affairs in a bit of a mess. In November 1275 Anselm Basset acknowledged that he owed £22 to Stephen de Cornhill and that he pledged his lands and chattels in Hampshire to pay the amount if Anselm defaulted on repayment.[23] A few years later Anselm Basset was in more financial trouble. In January 1278 the estate of Anselm Basset was restored to him after it was previously taken into the king's hands for his default in the king's court against Isolda, late the wife of Walter Bluet.[24]

In 1280 the action between Isolda Bluet and Anselm Basset again came to court. Isolda Bluet claimed a third part of a messuage and two carucates of land along with 37 shillings of rent at Henton Bluet in Somerset. Anselm Basset said she had no claim to her late husband’s land as he (the husband) did not hold it at the time of her marriage. A jury disagreed and gave Isolda her dower lands. It was not all bad for Anselm Basset as he was given leave by the court to seek compensation from the landlord, Nicholas de Monteforti.[25]

Anselm Basset was connected with Nicholas de Monteforti in more ways than just a tenant/landlord relationship. Both were executors to the will of Henry de Monteforti, brother of Nicholas. As part of their duties as executors, Anselm and Nicholas had to deal with a debt since the mid-1270s due by the Abbot of St. Augustine’s Bristol for £12 7 shillings 8 pence. The abbot refused to pay and the executors brought the abbot to court in 1280 at which the abbot was ordered to pay the debt.[26] As Anselm Basset died later in 1280 it is not known if the abbot ever got round to paying the debt.  

At a later court sitting in 1280 Richard Bluet, son of Walter and Isolda Bluet, claimed that Roger Cantock, Anselm Basset and his wife Margaret, had unjustly seized a messuage and two carucates of land at Henton Bluet. The jury found against Richard Bluet because the land was forfeited after Ralph Bluet died at the Battle of Evesham fighting against the king and subsequently granted by Walter Bluet to Roger, Anselm and Margaret.[27]

At a later sitting of the Somerset itinerant Justices, Anselm Basset was called to warrant for a messuage and a forth part of one virgate of land at Colines Litelton which he allowed to Edith Harold, a widow.[28] 
During the circuit by the itinerant Justices in Somerset in 1280 Anselm Basset sat as a jury member in a number of cases. Unfortunately for one reason and another result of the cases he had to deal with are unknown. He was last elected to jury service after Michaelmas 1280 but was deceased by that time.[29]

On 3rd April 1285 notice was given by the king’s court at Burgh that Sir Anselm Basset had died at his manor of Stoke on the Wednesday after Michaelmas in 1280.[30] This Stoke is taken to be Stoke Giffard in Somerset where Anselm had an interest in half a knight’s fee.[31] His widow, Margaret Basset, was still living in 1287.[32]

The coat of arms of Anselm Basset according to the roll of St. George, c.1285

Sir Anselm Basset and Margaret had at least four children. His son, Edmund Basset, succeeded to the family estates. In 1311 Edmund Basset died holding land at Salford and Dundrey in Somerset, and at Uley, Cam and Owlpen in Gloucestershire.[33] Edmund Basset left his three sisters as his heirs, namely, Isabel, wife of John de Punchardon, Margaret, wife of Nicholas de Valeirs and Catherine, wife of John Biset.[34] Isabel Basset Punchardon was said to be forty years old in 1311 which gives her birth year of about 1271.[35] Isabel and John Punchardon had a son, Sir Richard Punchardon, a valiant soldier in the wars of Edward III in France.[36]

After the death of Sir Anselm Basset, Margaret Basset, is widw, came to the itinerant justices of Somerset in 1280 seeking her dower lands. She claimed a third of a messuage of Isolda Bluet at Henton Bluet, a third of a messuage, mill and some land at Wynford, a third of a messuage and some land at Wydecumbe Wynford, and a third part of three messuages and land at Wynford. These properties were granted by Isolda Bluet and the other tenants.[37]


End of post


[1] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 1258-1266, p. 591
[2] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of the Reign of Henry III (3 vols. Boydell Press & National Archives, 2007), Vol. 3 (1234-1242), No. 26/219
[3] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume IV, Edward 1 (Kraus reprint, 1973),  p. 84
[4] Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward I, vol. 2, April 1280
[5] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Edward I, 1272-1281, pp. 362, 363
[6] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Edward I, 1272-1281, p. 367
[7] Thomas A. Archer, ‘Basset, Gilbert’, in the Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sir Leslie Stephen & Sir Sidney Lee (Oxford University Press, 1917), vol. 1, p. 1301
[8] Dom Aelred Watkin (ed.), The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, vol. 2 (Somerset Record Society, vol. 631952), pp. 388-9, no. 683
[9] J.A. Bennett (ed.), Report on the Manuscripts of Wells Cathedral (Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1885), p. 53. The priory of St. Nicholas of Berliz (Barlynch) was located in the parish of Brompton Regis in Somerset. Rev. F.C. Hingeston-Randolph (ed.), The Registers of Walter Bronescombe (A.D. 1257-1280), & Peter Quivil (A.D. 1280-1291) , Bishops of Exeter with some records of Bishop Thomas de Bytton (A.D. 1292-1307), & the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV A.D. 1291 (George Bell, London, 1889), p. 164
[10] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium commonly called Feet of Fines for Somerset, Richard 1 to Edward 1, A.D. 1196 to A.D. 1307 (Somerset Record Society, Vol. 6, 1892), pp. 196, 218
[11] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium commonly called Feet of Fines for Somerset, 1196 to 1307, p. 210; Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas from the rolls of the Itinerant Justices for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1 (Somerset Record Society, Vol. 44, 1929), p. 359
[12] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 1258-1266, p. 669
[13] H.C. Maxwell-Lyte (ed.), A Descriptive catalogue of Ancient Deeds, vol. 2 (1894), no., A 3178
[14] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 1258-1266, p. 467
[15] George Edward Cokayne (ed.), The Complete Peerage (Alan Sutton, Gloucester, 1987), Vol. II, pp. 1, 126-7
[16] Bridget Wells-Furby (ed.), A catalogue of the medieval muniments at Berkeley Castle (2 vols. Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2004), Vol. 1, p. xxviii, 354
[17] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1893), no. 473
[18] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 1266-1272, p. 61
[19] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 1266-1272, p. 298
[20] William Hunt (ed.), Two cartularies of the Priory of St. Peter at Bath (Somerset Record Society, Vol. 7, 1893), no. ii, 358
[21] H.S. Sweetman (ed.), Calendar of documents relating to Ireland, 1171 – 1307 (5 vols. reprint, Liechtenstein, Kraus-Thomson, 1974), vol. II (1252-1284), no. 1186
[22] James Mills (ed.), Calendar of Justiciary rolls of Ireland for 23rd to 31st Edward 1 (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1905), pp. 85, 110, 362, 298, 399, 412
[23] Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward I, vol. 1, November 1275
[24] Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward I, vol. 1, January 1278
[25] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, pp. 68-9
[26] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, pp. 186-7
[27] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, pp. 86-7
[28] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, p. 128
[29] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, pp. 103, 149, 227
[30] Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Edward I, 1281-1292, p. 156
[31] Emanuel Green (ed.), Pedes Finium commonly called Feet of Fines for Somerset, 1196 to 1307, p. 196
[32] Bridget Wells-Furby (ed.), A catalogue of the medieval muniments at Berkeley Castle, Vol. 1, p. xxviii
[33] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume V, Edward II,  no. 271
[34] J.E.E.S. Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume V, Edward II,  p. 147
[35] Edward Alexander Fry (ed.), Abstracts of inquisitions post mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, 1910), p. 117
[36] Thomas Gerard (edited by Rev. E.H. Bates), The particular description of the County of Somerset (Somerset Record Society, vol. 15, 1900), p. 17
[37] Lionel Landon (ed.), Somersetshire Pleas for 1280, Vol. 4, Part 1, p. 359

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