Hampshire, Bitterne, 1265–6

Winchester Pipe Rolls

HRO: 11M59/B1/31

mb 11d (29 September–29 September)

...Et xii .d. pro urso passando ad Comitissam....

  • Record Translation

    mb 11d (29 September–29 September)

    ...And 12d for a bear to be ferried to the countess....

  • Endnote

    This membrane is headed 'Item byterna' and the marginal title for this section of the account is 'liber,' that is, 'liberationes' (liveries); those sections usually include payments to individuals who were 'special agents' of the lord, rather than regular manorial workers.

    The bear was likely involved in some form of entertainment or spectacle. We have no evidence of bearwards with performing bears as itinerant performers this early, but the bear might have been readied for bear baiting, or perhaps more likely was displayed as a rarity, like the polar bear that was part of the royal menagerie in the Tower. In 1252 King Haakon IV of Norway gave a 'pale' bear to Henry III, and 'according to one of the extant Liberate Rolls, it was to be kept always muzzled on a long iron chain. Equally intriguing is the allusion to its keeper obtaining "one long and strong cord to hold the bear when fishing in the River Thames"' (Daniel Hahn, The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing 600–Year History of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts Kept at the Tower of London (New York, 2004), 20–1; Phillip Drennon Thomas, 'The Tower of London's Royal Menagerie,' History Today 46.8 (August 1996), 30).

    The countess may have been Isabella de Forz (Fortibus), dowager countess of Devon and Albemarle (July 1237–10 November 1293), last of a line of independent Norman rulers of the Isle of Wight. She lived at Carisbrooke Castle and styled herself 'Lady of the Isle (of Wight).' She succeeded to most of her lands in 1263, on the death of her brother, the 7th earl of Devon, and thereafter lived primarily at Carisbrooke, managing to duck attempts to marry her and get hold of her land.

    'passando' may well mean 'to be ferried' if the bear was to be taken from Bitterne to the Isle of Wight.

  • Document Description

    Record title: Winchester Pipe Rolls
    Repository: HRO
    Shelfmark: 11M59/B1/31
    Repository location: Winchester

    The Winchester pipe rolls are the accounts of the estates of the bishopric of Winchester, divided by manor. The account runs from Michaelmas to Michaelmas.

    1265–6; Latin; parchment; 17 membranes, joined at the top, cut with broad tongues at the bottom of each membrane for ease of moving from one membrane to the next; 385mm x 650–740mm; parchment cover somewhat damaged, but the rest of the membranes in good condition; cover has no title, though the old Winchester Cathedral Library and new HRO shelfmarks appear, along with other random words, at various angles.

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