10 March 1216: King John visits Dagworth
When we first came to live in Dagworth, I was aware of the story that King John had
visited, but I dismissed it as one of those local legends with no basis in fact.
I was wrong!
Patey's History referenced the account of the visit in Hollingsworth's 1844 "History
of Stowmarket", and speculated that the evidence came from old parish records
discovered by Hollingsworth and not seen again. Coppinger's 1910 "Manors of
Suffolk" appears sceptical of Hollingsworth's account, but perhaps only because
the description seemed a little fanciful.
Hollingsworth actually referenced his source specifically: "King John's itinerary from
the tower rolls", ie the Patent Rolls reproduced in T.D.Hardy's 1835 "Rotuli
litterarum patentium in Turri londinensi asservati", which presents King John's
itinerary throughout his reign. This shows that in March 1216, King John was in
Bury St Edmunds (13 miles away) on the 9th, Dagworth on the 10th and
Framlingham (19 miles away) on the 12th.
The Itinerary of King John Project is an interactive website developed by Jon
Crump, formerly of the University of Washington. It presents T.D.Hardy's text with a
timeline and mapping so that we can follow King John's journeys through England
and France. Jon helped me to confirm the Dagworth visit, and the patent that King
John attested here:
Matilda de Cokefeld [Cockfield, about 11 miles from Dagworth], wife of
Thomas de Erdington has letters patent of protection simple concerning (or
'with respect to') the lands and possessions which she has in dower and
maritagium. (attested by the king) at Dagworth on 10 March.
Seven months later, John was dead, and when he passed through Dagworth he
was at war with the rebel barons with whom he had signed Magna Carta nine
months previously. John was heading on to Framlingham for a reason: he laid
siege to the rebel earl of Norfolk Roger Bigod's castle and it surrendered two days
Hardy infers that King John stayed at Dagworth on the 11th March as well, and
perhaps he did, with all his retinue, preparing for a battle at Framlingham. In 1216,
Richard de Dagworth could well have come of age (he was a minor at his father's
death in 1205/6), but he may still have been the ward of William de Huntingfield.
Perhaps John was simply taking advantage of a Hall en route to Framlingham,
since Dagworth was a large settlement at that time, and there was no Lord to host
him (and perhaps that was the attraction), or perhaps young Richard or Sir William
were there: we do not know.
Hollingsworth paints a picture for us, however fanciful Copinger thought it:
The whole court rode very frequently at a brisk gallop during these journeys,
and sometimes travelled 50 miles in the day. What would be now thought of
the court with 50 ladies and gentlemen on horseback, and 50 attendants
sweeping at a gallop through the quiet streets and along the winding country
roads of our Counties?
What indeed? Perhaps we will try to reconstruct it for the 8th centenary in 2016...