From Domesday to Simon de Montfort:
Hungerford is not recorded by name in the great Domesday Survey of 1086. At that time it was part of the Royal Manor of Kintbury. (For more on this see Domesday Manors around Hungerford and Manorial History of Hungerford).
King William had granted Kintbury to Robert de Beaumont (a distant relative who had fought with him at the Battle of Hastings). Robert de Beaumont was created First Earl of Leicester in 1102, and so began a long association between the manor and the House of Leicester. The Hungerford lands passed via Robert de Beaumont the 1st, to Robert de Beaumont the 2nd and then to Robert de Beaumont the 3rd. The estates then passed to his sister Amicia (who was married to Simon de Montfort III), then to Simon de Montfort IV who was 5th Earl of Leicester, and then to Simon de Montfort V (born 1208).
Simon de Montfort V became Earl of Leicester in 1231, and he married the King Henry III's sister, Eleanor, in 1238.
Was Simon de Montfort important to Hungerford?
Simon de Montfort was Earl Leicester, and therefore Lord of the Manor. Furthermore, there is good evidence that he greatly favoured Hungerford. (Follow this for much more on Simon de Montfort)
In 1247-49 Simon developed the area now known as Hungerford Park (then "Balteley Wood") into a deer park. King Henry III himself made gifts of deer to his sister Eleanor for Simon's deer park on two occasions.
Earlier, in 1232, and probably at Simon de Montfort's persuasion, Henry III had given letters of protection to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist (in Bridge Street) and to the "Leprous sisters of St. Lawrence's church".
Most importantly, it was probably when Simon de Montfort was Lord of the Manor that the new "model" town was laid out.
The new "model" town:
The "new model town" is, of course, the town we know of today. Before the 13th century, Hungerford was centred on the Church; and The Croft possibly represents the old village green. (See the adjacent plan of Medieval Features of Hungerford).
The new town was laid out on fields to the east of the original vill, with a straightish north-south main street, divided into burgage plots, running 100 yards or so to back lanes.
It was a big task – involving several of Hungerford's Manors. But, it was worth it, because by developing and expanding the town, the Lord of the Manor would gain more money from the market tolls and other revenues.
However, it is interesting to realise that already Hungerford was developing in a different way to most small towns – the burgage plots, laid out on either side of the main street, could be sold or exchanged freely, unlike normal manorial holdings.
For more about the establishment of the new "model" town, see Manorial History.
From Simon de Montfort to John of Gaunt
In 1265 Simon de Montfort was killed at Battle of Evesham. (For more on this see Simon de Montfort). His lands reverted to the Crown, then (still in 1265) to Henry III's younger son Edmund "Crouchback", who was titled 1st Earl of Lancaster, Earl of Leicester. On his death in 1296, his son Thomas became 2nd Earl of Lancaster, but he was executed by King Edward II in 1322, and the estates passed to his brother Henry - "Henry Plantagenet" 3rd Earl of Lancaster. Henry "Plantagenet" died in 1345, and the estates passed to his son Henry of Grosmont.
Thus, in 1345, 80 years after Simon de Montfort, Hungerford (as part of the huge estates of the house of Lancaster) came into the hands of a very important man, Henry of Grosmont, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster. In 1348 he was one of the Founding Knights of the Order of the Garter, and in 1351 he was made 1st Duke of Lancaster.
- Simon de Montfort V (born 1208), Earl of Leicester, and very important to Hungerford in the mid 1200s.
- John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
- Medieval Features of Hungerford, showing the new town layout of (c1150-1250). [From "Historic Towns in Berkshire: an archaeological appraisal". Grenville G. Astill, 1978).
- Hungerford's three commemorative horns - the lower one is the "John of Gaunt" Horn, said to have been given to the town by John of Gaunt to confirm the ancient rights. More recent expert opinion is that it dates from the 15th century - 100 years later!
- This document (dated 1806) in West Berkshire Museum's collection is a statement declaring the fishing rights allegedly granted by John of Gaunt. [Courtesy of West Bekrhsire Museum].
John of Gaunt inherits the Lancastrian estates.
In 1330 Henry Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, had married Isabel de Beaumont, but in 1361 he died (probably of the plague) with no sons, although he did have two daughters - Maud and Blanche.
Maud inherited the huge Lancastrian estates, but she herself died childless in the following year – on 10 April 1362 – when the Lancastrian estates (including Hungerford) passed to her younger sister Blanche.
Blanche had married (in 1359 at Reading Abbey) Edward III's fourth son (3rd surviving son), John of Gaunt. Aged 22 years, created 1st Duke of Lancaster of the 2nd Creation.
It is said to have been John of Gaunt who granted so many rights and privileges to the inhabitants of Hungerford. 10 April 1362, when John of Gaunt inherited the Lancastrian estates including Hungerford is of great significance to Hungerfordians.
For more on this, see John of Gaunt.
What rights and privileges were established before 1362?
Tradition has it (in Hungerford) that John of Gaunt gave the townspeople lots of rights and privileges. These are discussed below, but firstly... what "Old Rights" were already established before 1362?
Right back in 1174 the townsmen referred to themselves as "burgesses", with burgage tenure: the burgage plots, laid out on either side of the main street, could be sold or exchanged freely, unlike normal manorial holdings. In return the burgage holder simply had to pay a fixed nominal "quit" rent to the Lord of the Manor.
In the 1240s, under Simon de Montfort, they were granted the rights of "herbage and pannage" (rights to graze sheep and pigs) in Balteley Wood (now Hungerford Park). In 1241 Hungerford was described as a "borough", and in 1248 is the first mention of a market.
What were the New Rights granted by John of Gaunt (post 1362)?
Hungerfordians always said that John of Gaunt granted the Right of free fishing in the River Kennet, from Elder Stubb (on the river just below Leverton) as far as Irish Stile (2 miles below, ie east of Kintbury).
The "John of Gaunt" horn:
It was always said that the "John of Gaunt" horn (one of Hungerford's three commemorative horns) was made to support this tradition, perhaps even given to the town by John of Gaunt, as guarantee of those rights. The horn has the word 'Hungerford' on one side, and on the other is a partially defaced word 'Actel' or 'Astel', along with the badge of the Crescent and Star, now recognized as the badge of Hungerford.
However, experts tell us that the John of Gaunt horn actually dates from the 15th century - at least 100 years later!
200 years of traditional "John of Gaunt" privileges:
For 200 years (c1365-1565) Hungerford enjoyed its traditional "John of Gaunt" privileges - the profits of markets and fairs, herbage, pannage, and the free fishery.
These halcyon days all came to a sticky end in Queen Elizabeth I's time. The whole topic has become known as "The Case of the Missing Charters". It was a turning point in Hungerford's history.
For the next chapter in the story of the Town and Manor of Hungerford see "The Case of the Missing Charters".