Barking Abbey : a study in its external and internal administration from the Conquest to the Dissolution
This thesis attempts to trace the history of Barking Abbey from the Conquest to the Dissolution. In some respects it has proved a disappointing study, for though Barking was among the greatest and wealthiest nunneries of mediaeval England, many of its records have perished. There is no chronicle to tell its history, nor cartulary to show how its lands were acquired. Even the Valor Ecciesiasticus, which one takes for granted in the study of English monasticism, is lost for the county of Essex. A considerable section of the thesis deals with the estates of the house and their administration. My chief source of evidence for this has been the court rolls of ten Essex manors, covering, though with many serious gaps, the years 1279 to 1539. These, together with a thirteenth century Domesdaye of Ingatestone and Bulphan, and a few compoti of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, have been used to show the methods employed by the abbess and her council to exploit the abbey lands, in accordance with prevailing economic tendencies. The revenues from the estates were allocated to obedientiaries. By the sixteenth century, the main funds were administered by a treasury, from which four defective account books have survived. The cellaress and the office of pensions handled substantial revenues, as their surviving account books show. Like most mediaeval monasteries, Barking owned a number of appropriated churches. It has been possible to trace the careers of a few of their vicars, especially when these owed their benefice to the king, for as a royal foundation Barking experienced in this, as in other demands, the effects of royal patronage. The abbey's relations with the outside world, and its franchisal rights have been discussed. A fifteenth century ordinal throws considerable light on the liturgical life of the house. While the subject calls for treatment by a specialist, I could not completely ignore it. Finally, the surrender of the abbey and the consequent dispersal of the nuns and of their estates have been treated.