One of the things I love about doing research in the Worcester Cathedral Library is getting side-tracked! This happened recently while researching one of the aqueducts that carried water to the Priory from its demesne manor of Battenhall. The course of this aqueduct is now very difficult to determine because of the expansion of housing so I was trawling through old books and charters to see if they gave any clues to this.
One charter was a grant by Richard Oseney and his wife Agnes and gave a description of its course in the city:
“libertie for their conveyance of water to passe by pipes in Oseney’s meadow without Subburie, called Tallewardynes, extending from the King’s high-way unto a water which runneth towards Frogmull….”
It goes on to say:
“that the Prior and Covent grant that they will after their deathes receive their bodies to be buried within the cathedrall church”
and adds that they request prayers would be said for them there on the anniversary of Thomas Carter’s death[i]
After my recent work on an unknown effigy in Worcester Cathedral this was a temptation too far – I wanted to know who this Richard Oseney and his wife Agnes were.
Habington in his Survey of Worcester[ii] describes Richard Oseney as “a gentleman as well as a citizen”. Habington says that Richard is depicted in a mural in the church of St. Alban in Worcester. The church of St Alban is now redundant and houses the Maggs Day Centre, which caters for the homeless, so I have been unable to ascertain if the mural still exists.
Richard was a considerable benefactor to the Priory and various charters show him granting them rents from his properties in ‘Brode’ (Broad) Street, ‘Freres’ (Friars) Street, High Street , a meadow outside Sidbury, a shop ‘named Elgwinsynne’, a garden and ‘the Heeld neere Dydley’. He may also have been a benefactor of Malvern Priory as one of the windows in the choir commemorates Richard and Agnes[iii].
There are many charters among our muniments dating to the late C14th and early C15th that are witnessed by Richard Oseney and in which he is titled ‘Bailiff’[iv], so he was obviously held in high esteem by his fellow citizens to hold this position. Documents at the National Archive identify him as a “King’s bailiff of the City of Worcester”. Richard must have had some legal training as he was qualified to hold the post of Clerk of the Recognizances and Clerk of the Peace at Worcester[v] both of which required some legal expertise. Richard went on to even higher positions as he is listed as a Member of Parliament for Worcester in 1406 and 1425[vi].
The last we hear of Richard Oseney is circa 1433 therefore he must have died close to that date, but he had, in an earlier charter, requested that he “be buried within the cathedrall church in the tombe which is under the rock or stone monument of Matild Oseney, neere St George’s chappell”. Matilda Oseney was his mother. The name Richard Oseney lived on in Worcester for at least two more generations, with his son, also named Richard, taking over his father’s position as bailiff and he was also a Member of Parliament for Worcester in 1453. His grandson was called Richard as well, and it is from his will that we know the wish that the first Richard be buried in Worcester Cathedral was carried out. This is shown as the grandson, Richard, in his will[vii], requested burial “there nexte the tombe of my granefadir” (i.e. grandfather)..
Beyond this the name of Oseney vanishes from the Cathedral’s records and unfortunately the Victorians during their C19th renovations cleared and retiled the area where the tomb would have been, so we will never know exactly where the ‘rock or stone monument’ of Matilda Oseney was or what it looked like.
[i] Survey of Worcester by Thomas Habington, ed. J. Amphlett, Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1899, v. ii. pp. 401-3
[ii] A Survey of Worcester by Thomas Habington, ed. J. Amphlett, Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1899, v. ii. pp. 401-3
[iii] Op Cit.
[iv] WCM B Class. Listed as Bailiff in 1423-4, 1427-30, 1433-4, 1439-41.
[v] National Archives : C 241/192/95, C241/188/131
[vi] Williams, William Retlaw. The Parliamentary History of the County of Worcester. Bibliolife, 1897. Priv. printed for the author by Jakeman and Carver, Hereford.
[vii] NA /PROB 11/10/110