Helena’s grants

Helena’s grants

Roughly square paper document with dark brown ink writing and a small parchment tag attaching half of a dark green pointed oval seal. There is a hole which has been repaired in the centre left.
SGC XV.24.40, Grant by Helena daughter of William de Aula of Netelbit [Nettlebed], mid-13th century.

Many of our documents are beautiful as well as useful. Over time, they became more ornate, but the early documents have a simplicity which focuses the eye on their handwriting and their content.

This document is a grant of land by Helena, or Elena, daughter of William de Aula of Midgham, and dates from the mid-thirteenth century. She is granting two marks of land in Netelbit, probably Nettlebed, near Henley, to Adam of Bustlesham, now Bisham near Marlow. Netelbit is described as being on the King’s highway. Attached is a small pointed oval personal seal of Helena. Although some of it has been lost, it looks like it had her name round the outside and a design possibly of a star and moon, in the centre.

Sandleford Priory, which was later granted to the Dean and Canons, held some land in Midgham, which is why these documents are in the archives. Helena appears on a second document, granting her land in Midgham to Stephen de la Wile in exchange for a clove of garlic every year and twenty marks sterling for Stephen’s entrance into this agreement. This is an example of a peppercorn rent, where the real payment for the land is the twenty marks paid for the initial agreement.

From other documents relating to Sandleford Priory’s lands, we another name recurring: de Pinkeni, usually anglicised as Pinkney. In 1223, Henry III issued a confirmation of a grant which includes Robert de Pinkeni granting the mill of Midgham. Helena’s Netelbit grant includes Roger de Pinkeni. The Pinkney family are recorded as holding the three manors at Midgham in the Doomsday Book in 1086. Even at this time there was a connection with Windsor, as part of the payment to the King for holding Midgham was service paid to the Constable of Windsor Castle.

Helena’s name is spelt differently on the two documents; on the Netelbit one she is Helena, and on the Midgham one she is Elena. De Aula is the Latinised version of the surname Hall, and it is Thomas Hall who we find still holding land in Midgham in 1335.

These documents are both neatly written by scribes, who share some similarities of letter forms. As the text of the documents is very similar, it allows us to compare the same words side by side:

Black neat handwriting.
SGC XV.24.42 ‘Elena filia Willi[ami] de aula de migeham’. Note the shorter a, and curls at the top of the d.
Brown writing with the letter d pointing up and left without a curl.
SGC XV.24.40 ‘ego Helena filia Willi[ami] de Aula de Migham’. Note the ornate H, the tall a at the end of Helena, filia and Aula, and the straight d.




A shorter capital S but a tall & and long first s in presentes.
SGC XV.24.40 ‘Sciant p[re]sentes & futuri’. Note the tall &, curling f, the use of long s in p[re]sentes, and the simple abbreviation mark for ‘er’.
Clear but unornate black lettering, with a long trailing S of Sciant and a stubby &
SGC XV.24.42 ‘Sciant p[re]sentes & futuri’. Note the short &, f which does not extend below the line of the text, flourish for the abbreviation mark, and short s in p[re]sentes.




These are also shorter than later grants, but we still find some of the same phrases such as ‘heredibus suis uel suis assignatus’ ‘her heirs and assigns’ and ‘bene in bona pace’ which became ‘quiet enjoyment’.

You can read more about Midgham here: http://www.midgham.com/html/hall_court.html and here: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol3/pp311-329#h3-s3.

Anne Courtney, Archivist & Chapter Librarian.

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.