Abbot Robert de Garford.
In May, 1327, a commission of oyer and terminer was issued to Thomas le Blount and four others, on complaint that a large number of malefactors of the counties of Oxford and Berks. had lately, in confederation, attacked the town and abbey of Abingdon, entered and burnt houses, assaulted and beat the monks and abbey servants, killing some and detaining others in prison until they had paid fines for their release, and had also carried away chalices, vestments, and ornaments of the church with other goods. In the following month protection was granted for one year to the monastery, the house having been so wasted by incursions of malefactors that the monks had for the most part withdrawn, and dared not for fear approach the place. The sheriff was ordered to cause proclamation to be made that the abbey was under his official protection. Moreover, Gilbert de Ellesfeld and Thomas de Coudry were appointed by the crown, in August, 1327, to the custody of the abbey, which is described as having been devastated by the rioters, and consequently abandoned by the monks. The custodians had power assigned them to arrest malefactors who injured the abbey and hand them over to the sheriff. In November the abbot was licensed to receive divers goods, such as chalices, books, vestments, ornaments, jewels, charters and muniments, of which the abbey had lately been despoiled, from certain of those who took them, and from others into whose hands they had come. A further commission was issued in the same year empowering Fulk Fitz Waryn and others to do justice to those arrested and imprisoned for their share in the Abingdon disorders. It is stated in the Close Rolls that the value of the spoiled goods of the abbey amounted to £10,000.
The commission issued in January, 1328, on complaint of the abbot, gives many more particulars of the affray and those concerned in it. About eighty names are set forth, in addition to many unrecognized. Among these various tradesmen of Oxford are named, such as bakers, butchers, chandlers, fishmongers, skinners, and taverners, in addition to Thomas de Legh, the town clerk, and Master Matthew de Alverchurch, notary public. The rioters also included various tradesmen and others of Abingdon. It is stated that the mob besieged the abbey in a warlike manner, burnt the gates and certain of the houses within the abbey precincts, destroyed other houses of the abbot at Barton and Northcote, broke the walls of the abbey and the stalls (seldas) of a house of the abbot in Abingdon called Newhouse, dragged the timber of the stalls to the ground, and entering the abbey carried off plate, vestments, and other church goods, together with divers charters, writings, and other muniments. Further, they carried off Robert de Halton, the prior, who was then sick within the abbey, to Bagley Wood in Radley, and there threatened him with the loss of his head unless he did their will; afterwards they carried him back to the abbey, broke open the coffer containing the common seal, and compelled him under fear of death to seal three writings obligatory, by one of which the convent became bound to them in £1,000, by another they were released and quitclaimed from all trespasses, whilst a third granted the men of Abingdon power annually to elect a provost and bailiffs for the custody of the town, together with power to make a profit of the wastes opposite their houses towards the king's highway through the town.
A separate complaint of the abbot, which brought about the issuing of another separate commission at the same date, referred to forcible interference with his Monday market, with his seven days' fair at the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and with a court called 'portemot,' held fortnightly by his bailiffs. These commissions were renewed in the following March.
The disturbances brought about the death of the abbot, and on 18 January, 1324, the temporalities were restored to Robert de Garford, one of the monks, whose election as abbot had been confirmed.
The trial of some of the rioters does not appear to have been finished even as late as May, 1330. In that month a writ of aid was issued for Robert Marye and Richard Peper, in conveying to Windsor Castle John le Spicer and five others, all of Abingdon, indicted for divers felonies and trespasses at Abingdon Abbey, and for whom Robert and Richard had given bail. (VCH)