A MEDIEVAL MYSTERY - by Noel C. Brindley

The Audleys - truth and love, the pentangle and the fret

There are many circumstances which link the Audley family of Staffordshire with the Gawain poem and Sir John Chandos.

During the Middle-ages the Audley family became one of the leading lords in north Staffordshire, second only to the Staffords. They originally had a castle and parkland in Audley village and from the early 13th century at Heighley. The main Audley family in the area were the Barons Audley of Heighley Castle and Hulton Abbey. The Black Prince, who was accompanied by Sir John Chandos on his way to Chester in 1353, stayed at Heighley castle.

A cadet branch of the family were the Audleys of Stratton-Audley in Oxfordshire, although still living in Staffordshire in the 14th century. James de Audley of Stratton had been summoned to Westminster in 1324 by the Sheriff of Staffordshire and the Sheriff of Bedford for his manor of Keymston, but it is specially mentioned that he did not reside in Bedfordshire. It seems this James de Audley of Stratton probably resided at Audley in co. Stafford. This James had a son, James who later became a Garter Knight and the inseperable companion in arms of Sir John Chandos K.G. of Radbourne, Derbyshire. James de Audley of Stratton snr. was a Staffordshire man, and his son Sir James K.G. in so far as he had any English interests at all, was even more closely identified with North Staffordshire due to his Father's land acquisitions.

Ralph Elliott's topography convincingly leads us to Knotbury and Flash in Quarndon, Alstonefield. This was the land of the Gawain poet's/ Bertilak's Boar hunt. James Audley, Lord of Aenora Malbank's share of Alstonefield, was receiver of a chief rent (an annual sum payable on some freehold property to the original freeholder) from Sir Roger Swynnerton in Quarnford township in the 14th century, land once held by Hugh Despencer until 1327. See https://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22907&strquery=#s1

See also: https://hautdesert.webnode.com/the-gawain-poets-landscapes/

Books of Romance

Sir James Audley of Heighley and his wife Isabella LeStrange, collected books of romance as described in, 'The Barons Audley of Heley Castle And Hulton Abbey' By Thelma W Lancaster.

In 1352 he (Sir James Audley) had left quite a lot of property at the house of Robert de Gyen at Bristol, and Robert was in trouble with the King to the extent that all his goods and chattels were taken into the King’s hands.  I found his IPM.  He died at Fulham in January 1353, his next heir being his nephew who was a clerk and who was currently in the prison of the Bishop of Wells.  James petitioned for the return of his property, and mentioned “in the nursery at the side of the hall” money, a great bugle horn, a gilt chalice and paten, a book of romance, a charter of pardon for felonies, riots, terrorisings and other small things, together with 2 long towels, all in a long chest.  There was linen in a coffer in the lowest chamber of the tower, and on a cord in the same tower were hanging trappings for war horses, embroidered with the arms of Audley.  There was also bed linen.  Another coffer held silver table ware, 56 different pieces, together with 24 silver spoons and “one cross with the staff of 5 pieces of silver”.  There were rings, brooches and other jewels in a little coffer within it.  Lady Audley also had jewels and money there.  Separate cases held 2 of her hoods and a “noted breviary, 3 books of romance and 2 pairs of linen robes”.  I’m not surprised that James wanted it all back, particularly the pardon.  In view of the fact that his youngest sons were called Roland and Oliver, I would put a small bet on one of the books of romance owned by Lady Audley being the “Song of Roland."



Audley in Ulster and "Bricriu's Feast"

It has been noted that the earliest known story to feature a beheading game is the 8th-century Middle Irish tale Bricriu's Feast. This story has similarities to the Gawain poem and, like the Green Knight, Cú Chulainn's antagonist feints three blows with an axe. Fled Bricrenn (Old Irish "Bricriu's Feast") is a story from the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Bricriu, invites the nobles of the Ulaid to a feast at his new house at Dún Rudraige (Dundrum, County Down), where he incites three heroes, to compete for the "champion's portion" of the feast. The medieval Audley's of Heighley owned land in Ireland, and were once Constables of Ulster. There is still an Audley castle at Audleystown next to Strangford loch/lough in County Down, Northern Ireland. Dun Rudraige/ Dundrum (Bricriu's Feast) is only 15 miles from Audley's Castle. There was an Audley's castle on the spot from the time of Henry de Audley who built Heighley castle and Hulton abbey. The existing castle is mid 15th century. Information on the castle can be found at the Audley and District Family History Society website https://www.a-b.co.uk/audleynet/famhist/index.htm.

Sir James Audley and his wife Isabella, with an interest in books of romance, must have known of the tale of Bricriu's Feast, originating just 15 miles fom their castle in County Down.

James de Audley

Sir James Audley KG, Chandos' closest friend and brother-in-arms, was buried in the church of the Carmelites, founded by Sir John Chandos. At Audley's funeral in 1369, the mourners were led by the Black Prince. - from 'The Barons Audley of Heley Castle And Hulton Abbey' by Thelma W Lancaster.

(Heighley Castle was not the sole household in which the Heighley Castle Audleys lived, there was Red Castle at Hawkstone in Shropshire, Buglawton Manor in Congleton in Cheshire, Newhall Tower at Combermere, and a home in Nantwich, Cheshire. The Audleys also had interests in Ireland, where there still remains an Audley's Castle).

It would appear that the Sir James Audley KG, son of James Audley of Stratton-Audley, not the Audley of Heighley Castle, is the one mentioned at the battle of Poitiers, valliantly fighting the French with his four esquires. The Cheshire squires were thought to be, Dutton of Dutton, Delves of Doddington, Fouleshurst of Crew and Hawkstone of Wrinehill nr Nantwich.

James Audley KG had a brother, Peter who died at Beaufort castle c1359. Froissart distinctly calls Peter the brother of that James Audley who fought at Poitiers. James Audley of Heighley had no brother called Peter. The Stratton branch and the Heighley branch of Audleys were related however and had a common ancestor. Both Audley's owned land in Staffordshire. Significantly, the Audley's of Heighley owned land in Alstonfield forest during the 14th century, specifically around Knotbury and Flash, the area of the boar hunt (Ralph W.V. Elliott).

Both Audley's were known to Sir John Chandos. It was the Garter Knight who usually fought alongside Chandos but on one occassion it appears it may have been the Audley of Heighley - From COLLECTIONS FOR A HISTORY STAFFORDSHIRE VOLUME IX. THE WILLIAM SALT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY: A force was hurried from England to relieve St. Jean d'Angelys late in the same year. In 1351 Audley, with Chandos, Burghersh, and Sir Ralf Ferrars, led an army of 500 lances, 1,500 archers, and 300 "brigands" to relieve the besieged garrison, but the King of France took St. Jean in August.
(Gen. Wrottesley thinks this expedition was led by the lord of Heley and not by the Garter Knight.
A suit in Staff. Cols, xiv, 96, seems to confirm this, and Froissart may have mixed them up. It might equally well be either of them.)

The following is a short extract about the history of the Audleys: 


Every local antiquary and historian knows the famous Audleys, lords of Heley Castle.
Dugdale in his Baronage (1675) and Ashmole in 1693 said that the hero of Poitiers was the lord of Heley, and every local history has since followed in their train. Ormerod's Cheshire, Sleigh's Leek, Ward's Stoke-on-Trent, Burke's Peerage and Landed Gentry, Harvvood's Notes to Erdeswick, and Eyton's Antiquities of Salop, all perpetuated the error. Even General Wrottesley, finding James de Audley, lord of Heley, a frequent warrior in France (1344-52), once upon a time accepted Froissart's account as referring to the Heley Baron a view he soon after corrected in his Crecy and Calais?

Mr. G. F. Beltz, Lancaster Herald, was the first to show in his Memorials of the Order of the Garter (1841) that Sir James de Audley, K.G., and hero of Poitiers was not the same as James, Lord Audley of Heley (Staffs.) and of Redcastle (Salop). G. E. C., in his Complete Peerage, has since given a fairly accurate account of his parentage, but the recent publications of the William Salt Society, and the opening up of the Public Records in print and in transcripts kept at the William Salt Library at Stafford have given us materials which make it desirable to restate the Audley pedigree and the case for Sir James, K.G. Froissart writes concerning the death of his Sir James d'Audelee in 1369 : " He was a wise knight and a hardy and "valiant fighter. He it was who first fell on at the battle at "Poitiers . . . and was held the most chivalrous and valiant fighter on the English side that day." We know that James, Lord Audley of Heley, died 1st September, I385. Froissart we know may be wrong in his dates, but Beltz shows also that Sir James de Audley's stall among the Garter Knights had been  reoccupied in 1375 by Sir Thomas Granson. The complications increase however, when we find at least four contemporary James de Audleys living in the middle of the fourteenth century. It is quite clear that there were two James de Audleys at Crecy. One, called " lord of Helegh," a banneret in the following of Richard fitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, who fought in the second battalion the other, called " son of James de Audley of Stretton- Audele," was in the retinue of the Black Prince. With him were Sir John Chandos, Sir Hugh de Wrottesley, Sir Bartholomew de Burghersh, the younger, and Sir Thomas Holland, who were all then, or shortly afterwards, Knights of the Garter.

All the old rolls of Garter Knights are written in French, and the barons on the list are clearly distinguished from the knights by the prefix Sire before the surname, the knights having Sire or more generally Monsire before the Christian name.
Our use of the prefix " Sir"causes some confusion, but there can be no mistake in the French versions of these names, and Monsire James Daudley is among the knights. Sir James de Audley, of Heley, was a baron and as such is continually summoned to Parliament. The Garter Knight is therefore not the lord of Heley. He must certainly be that " James, son of James de Audley of Stretton-Audele," in the Black Prince's retinue among companions all Garter Knights.
If the K.G. was Sir James from Stretton and not the lord of Heley, it is even more certain that the knight who distinguished himself at Poitiers was not the lord of Heley. Froissart throughout his chronicle is certainly speaking of only one " Messire James d'Audelee " from the time he first introduces him after his brother Peter in 1346, till his death as Seneschal of Poitou in 1369. The Lord of Heley had no brother Peter older or younger, and certainly died in 1385; Moreover on April 2Oth, 1353 (after a campaign in France in I350-I James de Audley, of Heley, was released by royal writ from all future military service, probably because his son Nicolas had taken his place in war. His sons, Sir Nicholas and Sir Roger de Audley, were both serving in 1359 in France.
Here then is what we can find out about Sir James de Audley K.G. He was a son of James de Audley, of Stretton-Audele.

Jon the Blind Awdlay

It is likely that Jon the Blynd Awdlay (died c.1426) a priest and poet from Haughmond Abbey in Shropshire, was of the Audley family. Jon was part of the household and the first priest of Richard Lestrange, 7th Lord Strange of Knockyn. Sir James Audley of Heighley's second wife was, Isabella Lestrange of Knockyn, daughter of Roger 5th Lord Strange of Knockyn. If Jon was a son of James and Isabella, Lord Lestrange was cousin to his priest. There is a little known Jenkin Audley mentioned in Sir James Audley's Will (T. W. Lancaster), this may well be Jon, 'Jenkin' being the diminutive of John. This may also imply that there was also an older brother named 'John'. In Jon the Blynd Awdlay's anthology there are two alliterative poems similar in style to 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and 'The Pistel of Swete Susan'. These are 'Paternoster' and 'Three Dead Kings', whether or not these are Awdlay's own work is uncertain. - See The language and metre of Pater Noster and Three Dead Kings By Ad Putter. It is possible that Jon Audley would have known, or at least been aware of, the earlier works of the Gawain poet.


Genealogy of Lestrange from the 1st Lord Strange 'per Mandatum' - by John R. Mayer

John le Strange V (circa 1252-1309) succeeded as 7th Lord Strange by Letters Patent in 1275. The same John V was recognized as the 1st Lord Strange in the Peerage of England, when the Parliament issued to him a Writ of Summons in 1299.

John V’s eldest son and heir, John le Strange VI, became 2nd Lord Strange of Knockyn in 1309, and his eldest son and heir John le Strange VII became 3rd Lord Strange, Baron of Knockyn, in 1311.

John VII’s younger brother and heir was Sir Roger Lestrange I the Elder, who succeeded as 5th Lord Strange, Baron of Knockyn, in 1349. Sir Roger’s second son and heir was John Lestrange VIII, who became 6th Lord Strange, Baron of Knockyn in 1383.

John VIII’s eldest son and heir was Richard Strange [sic], who became 7th Lord Strange of Knokyn in 1398. Richard’s eldest son and heir was Sir John le Strange IX, who became 8th Lord Strange, Baron of Knokyn, in 1449.

When Sir John died in 1479, his daughter and sole heir, Johanna Stanley née le Strange (1463-1514), became 9th Baroness Strange of Knockyn in her own right, in 1479. Thus, the year 1479 marks the extinction of the Lords Strange of Knockyn. The Strange heirs male became extinct in 1479, and the Strange heirs general became extinct in 1514, when Johanna died.


The Audley's of Aldford

Richard de Aldford had given the monks of Poulton/Pulton a licence to make a fishery in his land of Aldford.

From George Ormerod's History of Cheshire - volume 2:

Aldford - is situated on the right bank of the Dee, three miles south of Chester. It contains Aldford, Buerton, Eggerley and half of Churton.
Aldford is unnoticed in the Domesday Survey by its present name, which is evidently derived from a local circumstance, an important ford of the Dee, which its castle was erected for the defence of, and which communicated its name to that castle, and to the church and village erected under its walls for protection from the incursions of its Welsh neighbours.
Robert de Aldford, in the time of Hen.II. married Mary (or Sarah according to some pedigrees) daughter of Richard Fitz Eustace, baron of Halton. It is most likely that in or near this reign the castle was erected, which became the head of the several manors originally possessed by Bigot, which had much about this time been granted out to various proprietors, and now formed component members, holding by military service, from the great fee of Aldford, which was held in capite from the earldom by Richard de Aldford in the time of king John.
A profusion of deeds of this Richard de Aldford exist among the Cheshire collections, and will ' be found in the accounts of Thornton, Mobberley, &c. and in the chartulary of Pulton. It is most probable that he was of the Audley family, from his grants of lands in Aldithel' (Audley) to the monastery of Pulton, and from the arms which he adopted (Gules, fretty Ermine) which vary little from the coat of the Audleys.
Richard de Aldford was succeeded in his fee and castle of Aldford, between the 10th of king John and the 13th of Henry III. by sir John Arderne, to the account of whose probable relationship to his predecessor nothing can be advanced beyond what has been stated under Alvanley. There can be little doubt that he was either son or son-in-law, and the probabilities seem to be in favour of the former, and also to point to the identity of Richard de Aldford with Richard de Harderna.

George Ormerod's History of Cheshire - volume 3:  This coat of Aldford appears to be formed on that of the Audleys, from whom the Aldfords were probably descended. The Ardernes inherited lands in Aldithelegh from the Aldfords, temp. Hen. III. see vol. II. p. 465.


Ormerod says that Richard de Alford gave grants of lands in Aldithel' (Audley) to the monastery of Pulton. During the Gawain Poets time the monks had already been removed from their abbey of Pulton to their new abbey of Dieulacres. The lands granted in Audley to Pulton abbey by Richard de Aldford, would now belong to Dieulacres.


Follow this link to the Channel four Time Team documentary on Poulton abbey 


The Gawain poet makes much of knots and truth

We are told the pentangle is a knot.

The fret, on the Audley coat of arms was indeed a knot, the True-Love knot as described in, 'A System of Heraldry Speculative and Practical: with the True Art of Blazon, according to the Most approved Heralds in Europe': By Alexander Nisbet, Gent. p218 (1722).
'The Fret is composed of a Saltier & Mascle, and is a badge of Fastness and Fidelity, like a knot or Tye of Ribbons. The English I find take it so; and call it the Love Knot. It is called by some English Heraulds, Heraldorum Nodus amatorius; the Herauld's Love Knot, because it is divised by them, as an Armourial Figure.'

(See also, Encyclopaedia Heraldica Or Complete Dictionary of Heraldry, Volume 1, By William Berry.)

It is interesting that the poet tells us that Gawain wears True-Love's (knots) on the hem of his aventail: Tortors and trulofez entayled so þyk

There is a book, A dictionary of Chivalry by Grant Uden, which describes how the knot was used to represent a family name. His entry is on page 14, under "Badge". Uden tells us that: 'Among the most popular and curious badges were various types of knot,e.g................ (list of knots, the Harrington knot being closest to the Audley's, except it was not gold on a red backgroud) Often, these knots (in Heraldry) were a rough pictorial representation of the wearer's name or initials. Thus, the Stafford knot may be considered as two S's crossed; the Bourchier knot embodies two B's; the Bowen knot is made of bows, or loops; and Lacey's knot is a play on the name, an intricate lacy design.'

The Audley Fret/knot is not of Audley originally, they were the arms of Verdons, Audley's antecedents, a cadet branch of Verdon, according to Thelma W Lancaster in her article 'The Barons Audley of Heley Castle And Hulton Abbey'. 'The Complete Peerage' says that the fret is derived from the arms of the Verdons, overlords of the earlier Audleys. It must be noted that the Verdons colours in their coat of arms had been counterchanged when adopted by the Audleys.

Grant Uden would recognise the Verdon family initial within the Audley heraldic true-love knot, and also the 5 initial A's within Gawain's endless knot, perhaps a reference to Audley, see below:-

Verdon/Audley arms

showing the initial 'V' within the fret / love-knot (Heraldorum Nodus amatorius)

(image N C Brindley)


Pentangle/Pentalpha (endless knot, a token of truth) of Gawain

showing the initial 'A' within the endless knot. It should be noted that the 5 pointed star exactly fits the contour of the heater shield and was meant to be represented as above.

(image N C Brindley)


Þerfore on his schene schelde schapen watz þe knot
Ryally wyth red golde vpon rede gowlez, [folio 100r]

The above description could equally fit Gawain's or the Audleys of Staffordshire's shield


The following, by Allen Grossman, seems to confirm the association between the true-love knot (in heraldry the 'fret') and the pentangle: True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing - p32 (2009)
'The "true-love" I am studying has two genealogies, one demotic (the love knot, like a four-leaf clover, that everybody in the sixteenth century knew how to tie), and the other an esoteric transformation of the true-love knot, commonly figured as the Seal of Solomon (pentangle). The first stems from Anglo-Saxon feudality. "true-love" is a Germanic expression (as still in der Liebesknoten)...................
The second genealogy of the true-love I am studying (the Seal of Solomon, esoteric version of the true-love knot that anyone could tie) implies the love of truth (objective genitive as in philosophia), not German but Greco-Roman, indeed Platonic - as Foucault found it (The Use of Pleasure, part 5, "True Love"20), intending not the sufficient conditions of contract, but cognative/amative unity with the real, that is to say, knowledge.'


Love-knots, amorettes, rosettes and pentangles

In nature the representation of the pentangle is the five-petalled Rose, the wild rose we call the Dog-rose. In Greek mythology the five-petalled rose became the star of Aphrodite. To the Christians it was a symbol of the Virgin Mary, the Rose without a thorn, the peerless Rose, she was also referred to as the Rose of Love. The five-petal Rose, as with the pentangle, was associated with the Five Wounds of Christ. See: Beads and Prayers - The Rosary in History and Devotion also, Math for Mystics by Reena Shesso.

In the Middle English Dictionary the amorette is described as a love-knot (an interlaced knot like a rosette).

Rosette: A design, arrangement, or growth resembling a rose, in particular.

The heraldic love-knot (Fret as used by the Audleys - Heraldorum Nodus amatorius) therefore, can be said to represent the wild Rose, the five-pointed Star of Aphrodite, the pentangle representing the Virgin Mary, the Rose of Love, the Rose without a thorn. The Rose, Pentangle/endless knot and the love-knot are the same (see Grossman), their meanings are linked, interlaced/interwoven, as a knot.


The Carmelites (Whitefriars) and the Pentangle

Sir John Chandos was a devotee of the Virgin Mary, he may even have been a secular Carmelite, he founded a church for the order in Poitiers. Sir James Audley KG, was buried in Chandos' Carmelite church, the chief mourner being the Black Prince.

It is confirmed that the Carmelites used the pentangle as one of their symbols to represent the Virgin Mary:-

History of Scottish Seals from the Eleventh to the Seventeenth Century -1907
Aberdeen has preserved impressions of three seals relating to
the Carmelite Priory in that town, which occupied the important
position of being the Provincial House of the monks of the
Order of Mount Carmel, in Scotland. One of these seals,
attached to a document dated 1411, bears a representation of the
Resurrection of our Lord, set in a carved and canopied Gothic
niche or tabernacle, enriched with seven pinnacles, a number not
without significance of meaning. From the legend it is abun-
dantly clear that the seal belonged to the Prior Provincial of the

A later common seal of the Carmelites of Aberdeen,
made in the fifteenth century, bears the magical pentacle of
Solomon (sometimes called " Solomon's Seal "), a star-like figure
of five equi-angular points in outline, composed of as many lines
of equal length united at their extremities, a symbol believed by
the astrologers and soothsayers of the middle ages to be
endowed with many virtues and cryptic potencies, and in this
case having its powers enhanced by the addition of the letters
M - A - R - I - A set between the points, in reference to the Virgin


Why Audley?

They were an important family who lived and owned land in the area of the poet's dialect.

Until 1391 the Audleys were Lords of the land in Alstonefield Frith, where Ralph W. V. Elliott convincingly places Lord Bertilak's Boar hunt. If not an Audley himself or working for an Audley, why did the poet make a point of describing Audley land so vividly.

The Audley's were lords of Horton, just 3.5 miles from Dieulacres Abbey. The Audleys were also Lords of Rushton, a part of which was once named Rushton James. We are told that the foresters of the Abbot's (of Dieulacres) forest were freeholders from Rushton, see: https://hautdesert.webnode.com/bertilak-de-hautdesert/

They were patron's of the Cistercian Hulton abbey. They also had connections to Pulton abbey through Richard de Aldford who was probably an Audley, according to George Ormerod. Pulton was a Grange of Dieulacres during the time of the Gawain poet and the lands in Audley granted to Pulton abbey would now belong to Dieulacres.

The Audley's of Heighley were collectors of books of Romance, James and Isabella Audley named two of their sons, Roland and Oliver, no doubt after the "Song of Roland."

The poet, 'Jon the blind Awdlay' may have been of this family. Some of the works in his anthology seem to be of an earlier date and more northerly, than Audelay's poems (Ad Putter), and bear a close resemblance to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Audelay was surely aware of the earlier works of the Gawain poet.

The Audley's coat of arms was a fret (Or/gold) on a Gules (red) background. The fret was the Herald's representation of the true-love knot. Gawain's shield had a Pentangle painted upon it, a token of truth. The poet says it was known as the endless knot, it was a pentangle (Or/gold) on a gules (red) background (as Audley's) yet the poet requires us to know that this was a representation of a knot. Often, these knots (in Heraldry) were a rough pictorial representation of the wearer's name or initials, Gawain's endless knot represents the letter 'A'. With the knowledge that these medieval knots represented a name, it can be speculated that this 'A' was for Audley

The Audley's were good friends of Sir John Chandos, especially James Audley KG, son of James Audley of Stratton Audley, who was buried in Sir John Chandos' Carmelite church in Poitiers. A common seal of the Carmelites was the pentangle, a representation of the Virgin Mary.

The Audleys were once Constables of Ulster, the earliest known story to feature a beheading game is the 8th-century Middle Irish tale Bricriu's Feast, from the Ulster Cycle. There is still an Audley castle at Audleystown next to Strangford loch/lough in County Down, Northern Ireland. Dun Rudraige/ Dundrum (Bricriu's Feast) is only 15 miles from Audley's Castle. Sir James Audley and his wife Isabella, with an interest in books of romance, must have known of the tale of Bricriu's Feast, originating just 15 miles fom their families castle in County Down.


CONCLUSIONS - Subject, Patron and Author

It is possible to speculate that the poem was written to remember the founding Garter Knight, Sir John Chandos. A Perfect Knight and Marian devotee, Chandos was mortally wounded during a skirmish at Lussac Bridge in France, and died on New Years Day, 1370. He was much loved and highly regarded by King Edward III, his son the Black Prince and Sir James Audley K.G.

The patron may have been an Audley of Staffordshire, perhaps James de Audley of Heighley Castle, whose family, including Audleys of Stratton Audley, had many links to Sir John Chandos. Also, the poet's topography matches the lands in Staffordshire next to Swythamley and Dieulacres, where Audley's were lords. Quarnford in Alstonefield is especially noteworthy, the land of the Boar hunt which includes Flash and Knotbury was Audley land, as described: What was called the manor of QUARNFORD in 1321 was held by Hugh Despenser, created earl of Winchester in 1322. Hugh Despenser was executed in 1326, and in 1327 the Crown assigned Quarnford to Sir Roger Swynnerton, along with Despenser's share of Alstonefield manor and his manor of Rushton Spencer, in Leek. At his death in 1338 Sir Roger was stated to hold what was described merely as pasture on the moors in Quarnford, for which he paid a chief rent of two arrows a year to James, Lord Audley, lord of Aenora Malbank's share of Alstonefield.

From: 'Alstonefield: Quarnford', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 7: Leek and the Moorlands (1996), pp. 49-56. URL: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22907&strquery=Audley

James de Audley held Quarnford as freeholder, in the 14th century.


It is possible, that the poet was telling us that he was of Dieulacres's High Forest and that his personal name was linked to 'Bertilak'. The Saxon St. Bertelin/Bertila, was much venerated in the Alstonefield area of the moorlands. Most medieval foresters had Saxon names, nearly all the terms of venery are Saxon, the name of the Forest Courts is Saxon, Swainmote. The ancestors of the Beresford's, once Master Foresters of Alstonefield/Malbanc Frith, tell us that the laws of the forest used at the time of the Norman conquest, were those of Canute. These laws were adopted and much mitigated by the Normans. Most foresters, had Saxon names, such as Trumwyn, Alfred de Canoc etc., see Beresford of Beresford by Rev W Beresford and Samuel B Beresford. Bertilak de Hautdesert would fit in with this Saxon naming of its foresters.

It would also not be inconceivable that the Black Prince, Earl of Chester, himself may have instructed his monks or abbey clerks C Dieulacres to produce the poem in memory of his close friend and advisor, Sir John Chandos K.G. It must be remembered that abbey clerks could also be foresters, see 'A contemporary of the Gawain poet'.

Next page: Fashion and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight



by Noel C Brindley - May 2012

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