A Medieval Thief

I recently came across this reference to a medieval Cailly. The year is the 14th of the reign of Edward I, which ran from 20 November 1285 to 19 November 1286. The place is North Repps near Cromer on the NE Norfolk coast.

“Roger de Cayly and Robert the groom (valettus) of Henry de Brom, being prosecuted at the suit of the bailiffs of this hundred, took sanctuary in the church of North Repps, and admitted themselves to be thieves.”

Henry de Brom belonged to quite an important East Anglian family.

I do not know how, if at all, Roger de Cayly fits into the Cailly tree, but the fact that he is recorded as ‘de Cayly’ suggests he does somehow – ‘de’ normally signifies a member of a landowning family. About 40 years earlier there are references to a Roger de Cailli/Caly at Heacham on the Wash, where the Cailly’s had long held land, but this is unlikely to be the same person. It looks the thieving Roger was one of the family’s black sheep. Or was this an episode in a quarrel between the Cailly family and neighbours? Such quarrels often led to what we would regard as criminal acts, as State records, manor court records and the Paston Letters show.

Source: Crown Plea Roll, Norfolk, North Erpingham Hundred, in Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany, vol. 1, ed. Walter Rye, pub. A H Goose and Co, Norwich, 1883


Drinks on the (monastic) house

mug-clipart-free-beer-18In medieval times ancestors of the Yorkshire Cayleys were associated with the Priory of Wymondham, SW of Norwich (which gained full Abbey status in 1448 and is now the parish church). In 1309, the wealthiest and most powerful member of the family, Thomas de Cailly, who inherited through his mother vast estates across much of England, is recorded as having the advowson of the Priory of Wymondham – the right to appoint the prior. Among the perquisites that went with the advowson, and which Thomas enjoyed, was bread and ale to be supplied by the Priory whenever he was in the area. (Venison, suckling pigs and the like do not seem to have been included – but Thomas will have had other sources for those.)

There is no indication that there was a limit to the amount of ale. I can think of at least one or two living members of the family – and one or two people connected with family members – who might have wanted to take full advantage of a right like this!

[Source: Close Rolls, March 1309, cited in the Victoria County History of Norfolk vol 2 p.338]

The Runaway Nun

The baronets’ branch of the Cayleys descended from members of the family who made their main base in Yorkshire in later medieval times. But some Cayleys stayed in East Anglia, where the family had its original landholdings after the Norman Conquest.

In 1389 a nun called Margaret Cailly eloped from St Radegund’s Priory, Cambridge, whose site was taken over by Jesus College when it was founded in 1496. William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury, found her and her partner living in the the Diocese of Lincoln during a visitation he made of the diocese. She had naturally cast off her nun’s habit and was in ordinary secular dress. William Courtenay apprehended her and parcelled off unceremoniously to the custody of John Fordham, Bishop of Ely, who in turn sent her back to St Radegund’s, with strict orders that the prioress was to keep the poor woman in close confinement and impose harsh penances on her.

It is perhaps ironic that St Radegund, after whom the priory was named, was forcibly married in the 6th century to a brutal Frankish ruler who had her brother murdered: she ran away and successfully sought the protection of the Church, founding a double monastery (one which had both male and female members – quite a common practice at the time). For Margaret Cailly the Church was hard and uncompassionate.

Margaret was almost certainly descended from members of the Cailly family who stayed in East Anglia.