Mingay History Web Pages (MHWP)




DanI am pleased to introduce Daniel Mingay. Daniel holds an M.A. from the University of East Anglia in Medeival History. He is the son of Paul & Sue Mingay. Dan has very kindly taken on the challenge to write a series of articles about the early times of us Mingays. Please let Dan know what you think, and give him some encouragement to do further studies


Part 1 The Early Mingays - Rannulf Mengui

Rannulf Mengui

The earliest mention of a Mengui in England can be found in Henry I’s confirmation charter of the foundation of, and gifts made to, Colne priory.  Aubrey de Vere established the priory in, or slightly before, 1111 and the king’s consent was required.  Confirmation charters were effectively legal documents that confirmed certain possessions granted to individuals or foundations.  They were particularly important for resolving disputes over the rights to, or the extent of, certain lands and holdings.  Disputes occurred fairly frequently, especially during or after an interregnum or at other times of political instability.  A confirmation charter granted the individual or foundation legal, and therefore royal, protection against any opportunistic assailants. 

Two copies of this confirmation charter exist.  One copy of the charter was written for Colne priory whilst the other was made for its parent house, Abingdon Abbey.  [No. 1 seems to have been given to Abingdon Abbey whilst no. 2 was given to Colne priory.]  It was commonplace for donors to grant demesne land, woods and other means of production, such as mills or ponds.  It was also common for a donor to specify the precise amount of land that was given, by its size or value.  For example, Aubrey gave the priory land in Earl’s Colne, Dovercourt, Palgrave, Thrandeston and Scaldwell.  He also granted the service of two tenants attached to specific amounts of land, five acres in both cases.  Aubrey also granted a number of churches, including the church of St. Andrew at Earl’s Colne along with churches in Dovercourt, Castle Camps, Great Bentley and Belchamp Walter. 

Donors often granted portions of the tithes owed by certain individuals to religious foundations.  This was one of the most popular gifts during this period so it is no surprise that we find it mentioned here.  Indeed, this is where we find our Mengui mentioned.  The copy of the confirmation charter for Abingdon Abbey reads;

‘in Hethyngham duo molendina que Aldewynus tenebat, de terra Adelelmi de Burgate decem solidos, dimidiam decimam de Myblank de Cola & tertiam partem decime Ranulphi Magni’.  [No. 1, ‘in Hedingham two mills that Aldewyn holds, ten shillings from the land of Adelelm de Burgate, a half of the tithe from Myblank de Cola & a third of the tithe of Ranulph Magni’.]

Meanwhile, the copy for Colne priory reads;

‘apud Haingeham tertiam partem decime Rannulfi Mengui’.  [No. 2, ‘at Hedingham a third part of the tithe of Rannulf Mengui’.]

This is repeated by a later confirmation charter by Ralph d’Escures, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made at some point between 1114 and 1122.  It reads;

‘apud Haingeham tertiam partem decime Rannulfi Mengui’.  [No. 9, ‘at Hedingham a third of the tithe of Rannulf Mengui’.  It is clear that Ralph d’Escures consulted the copy of the confirmation charter written for Colne priory when he himself confirmed the gifts made by Aubrey de Vere.]

The final mention of this Mengui can be found in Aubrey de Vere II’s confirmation of his father’s gifts to the priory.  This confirmation was made around 1135 and reads;

‘et apud Haingaham tertiam partem decime de terra Rannulfi Mengui’.  [No. 31, ‘and at Hedingham a third of the tithe from the land of Rannulf Mengui’.]

These four instances do not confirm whether or not Rannulf Mengui held the land throughout the entire period, from 1111-1135.  Of course, this is entirely possible.  However, we simply lack the source material to either prove or disprove this conclusion.  If Rannulf did not hold the lands in 1135, the latest of the confirmation charters must simply refer to the lands he had held, regardless of who held them in his place around the year 1135.  We are not told any further details about the land Rannulf held and can only assume that these lands would have had to have been identified by local inhabitants or elders in the community when its value was questioned or the need for its demarcation arose.


Robert the son of Mengui

We find a Robert the son of Mengui in a charter that probably dates to the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154).  [London, British Library, Additional Charter 28, 347]  The charter details the dower that William de Yspania granted to his wife, Lucy.  She was to receive one knight’s fee, held by Robert the son of Mengui, along with the service of a sokeman, Eustace of Willingale.  Both Robert and Eustace bear witness to the grant, which was apparently made in front of the door of St. Mary’s Church in Shalford, Essex, at the time of William and Lucy’s wedding ceremony.  [Green, J. A.  The Aristocracy of Norman England.  Cambridge, 1997.  Pp. 367-368.  See also, Hudson, J.  The Oxford History of the Laws of England, Volume II: 871-1216.  Oxford, 2012.  P. 448]

A knight’s fee was not a uniform amount of land, it was a rent.  Its value was equal to the cost of outfitting a knight for service.  This meant that the size of the land often differed depending on its location and the value of the land itself.  For example, the land was more valuable if it was suitable as arable or contained certain commodities, like pigs or cattle.  Also, like for like, land in the south-east of England was typically more valuable than land in the north.  This was due to a number of factors but remains true even today.  The land that this charter mentions as belonging to Robert the son of Mengui was probably not the largest of fees in terms of demarcation, although we have no way of knowing.  However, the quality of the land obviously made it valuable enough to warrant such a rent. 

One knight’s fee is the largest documented instance of the rent a Mengui had to pay, which is indicative of the wealth of the land and, therefore, the individual.  This is a remarkable discovery as it shows that Robert the son of Mengui was a landed individual who possessed enough wealth to field a knight.  When called upon, he would have been expected to either show up himself, supply a knight from his own household or to pay a fixed sum so that his feudal overlord could pay for a mercenary in his stead.  This document, therefore, suggests that Robert the son of Mengui was a knight, albeit a lesser one.

Furthermore, Robert appears in other records, either in the company of his feudal lords or making gifts of his own.  Recorded as Robert the son of Mengi, he can be found in a confirmation charter of Henry II to the nunnery of St. Mary’s in Clerkenwell.  This document was written between September 1181 and January 1182, according to Hassall.  It states;

‘Ex dono Roberti filii Mengi terram quam Ricardus capellanus tenuit de eo in Cocstedel in Willingehale et dimidiam acram terre in Cocstedel iuxta predictam terram que propinquior est eidem terre et iter et exitum et redditum sibi et suis in negociis suis in omnibus viis et semitis inter terras ipsius Roberti libere et quiete sicut eis opus fuerit.’  [No. 2.]

Robert the son of Mingghi appears to have held his lands from Ralph de Dyna, prior of St. John’s Hospital, before 1178.  This was probably due to an earlier grant that would have made to the Hospital.  At some point between 1178 and 1181, Ralph gave Robert’s lands in Willingale to the nunnery and this confirmation charter was written up to commemorate the act.  Ralph also granted some lands in Scellegha that were being held by Richard the chaplain.  Richard the chaplain’s lands had been given to St. John’s Hospital by Michael de Beseville sometime earlier.  The nuns had to pay two shillings per annum in order to hold both Robert’s and Richard’s lands.  The charter states that Ralph gave the following;

‘totam terram quam habemus de elemosina et de dono Roberti filij Mingghi in Willingehale’.  [No. 204.]

It is clear that Robert the son of Mingghi held some of his lands of St. John’s Hospital, making him their tenant, but he also seems to have made gifts of his own to the nunnery.  At some point before 1182, Robert granted the lands held by Richard the chaplain at Cotstedel, in Willingale, in return for eighteen pence per year.  He also gave half an acre of land near Cotstedel, for which the nuns had to pay a gersum of half a mark and a load of corn.  The charter, which deserves to be repeated here in full, reads; 


Sciant presents et future quod ego Robertus filius Mengi concessi et dedi et hac carta mea confirmaui ecclesie Sancte Marie de Clerek’w’ll’ et monialibus ibidem deo seruientibus terram illam quam Ricardus capellanus tenuit de me in Cotstedel in Willingehale habendam et tenendam in perpetuum ; reddendo inde mihi et heredibus meis annuatim xviii d. ad festum Sancti Michaelis.

Preterea concessi et dedi eisdem monialibus in liberam et puram et perpetuam elemosinam pro amore dei et pro animabus predecessorum meorum et pro salute heredum meorum dimidiam acram terre in Cotstedel iuxta predictam terram que propinquior est eidem terre.

Et ego affidaui quod ego et heredes mei adquietabimus et warantizabimus prefatas terras prenominates monialibus versus dominum regem et aduersus omnes alios homines.

Preterea concessi eis vt ipse habeant sibi et suis in negociis suis iter et exitum et redditum in omnibus viis et semitis inter terras meas sicut eis opus fuerit libere et quiete et pacifice et sine omni exactione et impedimento.

Quare volo et firmiter concede quod sepedicte moniales habeant et teneant prefatas terras et predictam libertatem viarum in perpetuum bene et in pace libere quiete et honorifice in terries in aquis in viis et semitis et exitibus et haiis et fossatis in bosco et plano et pasturis et omnibus aliis rebus et omnibus libertatibus et liberis consuetudinibus ad predictas terras pertinentibus.

Pro hac autem concessione et donation dederunt mihi eedem moniales in gersuma dimidiam marcam argenti et vnam summam frumenti.

Testibus.  Hascua de Tania.  Gilleberto decano.  Manasser de Tania.  Ricardo filio Roais.  Ailmaro filio Hacunis.’  [No. 69.]

This reveals a glimpse of the subinfeudation that had occurred in the area.  Not only did Richard the chaplain hold some lands from St. John’s Hospital but he also held lands from Robert the son of Mengi.  As we already know, Robert was also a tenant of St. John’s himself, as well as having given them lands of his own.  This paints a telling picture of the intricacy of feudal ties in Medieval England and serves as a reminder of the difficulty of assessing individuals’ precise situations and status.

Another charter exists that confirms another of Robert’s transactions.  It is difficult to date and, according to Hassall, can only be assigned to the period 1170 to 1185.  According to the confirmation, Robert had granted seven acres of land in Willingale to Richard the clerk in return for a gersum of three marks.  Robert also granted another piece of land in Cotstedel, which he had previously given to St. John’s Hospital.  Richard was to pay an annual rent of twelve pence for the lands, in addition to the three marks he had already paid.  We are not given any further details about the land except that the seven acres were situated next to Hervey’s lands.  [No. 71.]  However, we can be certain that this grant was made at some point before the previous one.  [No. 69]  This is because the lands that Robert grants to Richard in Cotstedel are referred to, along with Richard’s tenure of them.    

It is a shame that we do not have secular records for this period.  Robert obviously granted a fair amount of land to the Hospital, St. Mary’s and Richard the chaplain, but how much did he keep for himself?  We know that he had one knight’s fee in Willingale but how much of that land, if any, can be identified as the lands mentioned in later charters?  How much, if any, did he grant to other sub-tenants?  If there were other sub-tenants, the inclusion of Richard the chaplain here may be indicative of Richard’s relationship with St. Mary’s.  As usual, due to the lack of source material, this gives rise to yet more unanswerable questions.

On three separate occasions we find Robert attesting gifts, or the confirmation of gifts, made by his feudal lord, William de Hispania.  The first was as a witness to William de Yspania’s grant to Lucy, which involved Robert’s own lands.  The rather lengthy witness list is as follows;

Ricardo frater meo.  Willelmo filio Joichel.  Fulcone dapifero.  Rodberto de Vallis.  Gilleberto filio Radulfi.  Roberto filio Mengui.  Eustachio de Willigehale.  Ernaldo decano de Finchingefeld.  Willelmo filio Fulconis.  Thoma de Ardena et Radulfo filio eius.  Radulpho de Cauri.  Elia de Sancto Georgio.  Hunfrido de Bruill.  Alan de Sancto Georgio.  Hugone decano de Macinga.  Luciano medico.  Ricardo pincerna.  Eudone filio Geruasii.  Rodberto Masculo.  Nicolao coco.  Thoma camerario.  Arnaldo coco. 

As we can see, Robert is ordered quite prominently amongst those present.  This allows us a glimpse of his status.  Obviously, he was not as prominent as his lord’s brother, Richard, and he sits below William’s dapifer, or steward, and three other individuals in the list.  However, he also sits above seventeen other individuals. 

Robert can also be found as a witness to William’s confirmation of a substantial grant made by Richard the son of Eustace.  [No. 67, for Richard’s confirmation of his father’s grant]  Richard’s father, Eustace, who was the sokeman mentioned in the earliest charter mentioning Robert the son of Mengi, had made a number of gifts to the nunnery and this document shows that Richard confirmed the nuns in their possession of the lands his father had granted them.  [No. 66, for Eustace’s original grant.]  The nuns owed Richard fourteen shillings in rent, split into eight shillings and eight pence for service and another five shillings and four pence for defence, which were to be paid in half-yearly instalments of seven shillings.  Additionally, the nuns paid a staggering eighty one shillings and one pence as gersum.  Richard took the opportunity to make his own grant of one acre in Tunstall.  Hassal can only date Richard’s confirmation to between 1181 and 1189, with William’s confirmation occurring soon after.  The list of witnesses is as follows;

‘Hiis testibus.  Willelmo de Lamare.  Roberto de Spineto.  Roberto filio Mengi.  Willelmo de Martewas.  Waltero de la Graue.  Roberto Malet.’  [No. 68.]

The ordering of the witnesses is deliberate and allows us to see the prominence of certain individuals in the company of certain lords.  Therefore, compared to the other individuals in William’s presence at the time of this confirmation, Robert’s status was third only to William de Lamare and Robert de Spineto.  This differs somewhat from Robert’s next appearance as a witness for his lord.

Robert appears last on the witness list for a grant William de Hispania, along with his wife Agnes, made to the nuns between 1196 and 1198.  The couple gave the nuns their land in Willingale called Colwiggesfeld in return for the service of two shillings per annum.  Also, William received a gersum of twenty four shillings and Agnes received two bezants.  The list of witnesses reads;

‘Hiis testibus.  Ricardo, Waltero, Arnoldo, Guncelino capellanis de Clerek’.  Radulfo de Bueles.  Roberto filio Mengi.’  [No. 70.]

In this instance, however, the first four individuals are clerks from Clerkenwell.  Only Radulf de Bueles and Robert the son of Mengi appear to have been secular men.  With this in mind, Robert’s status is not diminished.  Rather, the fact that he attests at all highlights his standing with his liege lord.  This is made particularly clear when we consider that William de Hispania appears only twice in the Cartulary of St. Mary and that a Mengui is present with him on both occasions. 

Finally, Robert can also be found in the company of his lord, William de Spaine, as co-witnesses to another grant.  In an undated charter, Ralph de Bueles gained the tenancy of Edric de Bosco’s lands in Little Warley, along with the ownership of twelve pigs but excluding the parsonage located in Warley Wood.  Edric, or Edric’s successor(s), had to pay three shillings each year.  Foremost amongst the witnesses was Gilbert de Stanford, followed by Ralph de Novalanda.  Then we find William de Spaine and Robert MINGI.  They were in turn followed by Luke de Stanford and Simon de Plenego. 

William obviously had a relationship with Ralph as Ralph appears as a witness to one of William’s own grants.  However, we do not know whether Ralph was one of William’s tenants or if they were simply neighbours.  Little Warley itself is located south of Brentwood in Essex, which isn’t adjacent to any of the lands William was known to have held. 

As mentioned, the charter has not been ascribed a date.  However, we can assume that the grant was made around 1196/8 as this is when we find Ralph de Bueles in the company of William de Spaine.  Furthermore, Wright claims that a Ralph de Novalanda held two knights’ fees at Newland Hall at some point during the reign of King John (1199-1216).  [Wright, T.  The History and Topography of the County of Essex, Vol. I.  London, 1836.]  It is unfortunate that we do not know when Ralph gained possession of his lands or the date of his death. 

Apart from on the two occasions recorded in St. Mary’s Cartulary, the earliest mention of a Ralph de Bueles can be found in the Feet of Fines for Essex in 1249.  However, we have no way of knowing whether this Ralph is the same as the one mentioned in our charter.  It was either one individual or one was the father, the other the son.  Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing.  Moreover, according to Powell, there were three generations of de Spaines with the same forename spanning the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.  This makes it very difficult for us to discern which of the Williams are referred to in certain charters.  Not to mention whether this Robert, like Ralph, was one individual or two, a father and a son.  All we can be confident of is that the Robert it mentions was in the company of his lord, William de Spaine, and was listed as the most prominent follower who was present at the time.

With regards to the different William de Spaines, the only means available to telling them apart seems to be the names of their wives, and that only allows us to identify two of the three Williams.  The earliest of them, William the Elder, married a Lucy.  Either his son or his grandson married an Agnes.  Therefore, our Robert must have been in the company of at least two different William de Spaines.  Unfortunately, there is no extant source to show whether or not the Roberts mentioned in these charters is one individual.  If he is indeed the same individual, then we can see that his career covered the period c.1150-c.1215.

I suggest that the William de Yspania and Robert son of Mengui mentioned in the earliest of the charters, regarding Lucy’s dower, were the fathers of the William and Robert mentioned in all of the remaining charters.  This is because the initial charter dates to before the reign of Henry II, meaning the grant had to have occurred before Henry acceded to the throne in 1154.  All of the other charters, potentially bar the last one discussed, were composed between the years 1170-1185.  This leaves a gap of approximately twenty years of inactivity or, as is more likely, a lack of source material that documents the activity that occurred during this period.  I suggest that Robert the Younger was active during the latter part of the century and that it is his career that is particularly well documented.

Part 2 24/11/2013

The Early Mingays – Part 2


I have to apologise for the speed with which this very small piece of work was written.  I wrote the last ‘issue’ just after leaving my old job so had plenty of time to pour my effort into studying the individuals and the sources they were mentioned in.  As you’re all aware, a full time job rarely leaves much time to pursue hobbies, especially ones that demand as much attention as family history.  Still, small windows of opportunity keep appearing which allow me to add, bit by bit, to my work and aid in the ongoing effort by many to uncover more and more about our ancestors.

The last piece of work flowed much more seamlessly and I feel more was uncovered about those individuals’ lives than will be in this, and upcoming, ‘issues’.  The main reason for this is that those individuals were mentioned at least two or three times across different source materials.  This enabled me to link the various dates, people and places mentioned across those documents to reconstruct and reveal basic information about the two Menguis.  By contrast, the individuals discussed here, as well as in the future, will have their history written in a more piecemeal fashion.  Unfortunately, they have only been mentioned once or appear only in a single record.  This provides a brief snapshot of their lives and makes it difficult to glean anything of real value.

At this stage, I am caught between the urge to look into certain ‘clues’ and the need to release this as an update of what has been going on over the last year or so.  Obviously, I would have liked to have written a more complete picture of the Menguis discussed below.  One that ties any scraps of information in with what we know about other Menguis located elsewhere and at different times.  However, as Tony likes to point out, further study tends to reveal more questions than answers.  For the time being, the comments below will do.  Once I have run out of Menguis to talk about I will look at telling something of a ‘story’ about the medieval Menguis.  The plan is to tie together certain themes, at a national and local level, to show how the early Menguis initially settled in England and spread throughout the country over the generations.     


Geoffrey Mengui

A Gaufridus Mengui (Geoffrey Mengui) attests a charter dealing with the rights over the church of St. Saviour at Guingamp.[1]  The charter can be dated to 1145 and details a confirmation made by Count Alan, the Earl of Richmond, to the abbot of St. Melaine.  At ‘the repeated request of Hervey, abbot of St. Melaine,’ Alan confirmed the abbot’s right to appoint an abbot of St. Saviour from the monks of St. Melaine, as well as other gifts and benefactions that had been made to the abbey of St. Melaine in the past.  The charter mentions the dependent cells of St. Saviour, one of which is located in Remborc in England.  Clay suggests this could be Rumburgh in Suffolk but highlights the uncertainty of this suggestion.

It is not immediately clear why Geoffrey appears.  He is not found in any other extant charters so it is unlikely that he was regularly in the company of the Earl.  Also, Geoffrey cannot be found in the company of any of the magnates that attest the charter.  The attestations are as follows;

“Testes ego Alanus qui hoc confirm et donum sigilli mei impression munio donator.  Conanus dux testis.  Henricus comes frater meus t.  Berta comitissa t.  Radulfus Chorisopit[ensis] episcopus t.  Guido Leon[ensis] episcopus t.  Conanus archidiaconus t.  Rotbertus capellanus filius Guehenoc t.  Gauffridus de Corron t.  Rodaldus Pot t.  Alfredus Pokaer t.  Gaufridus Mengui t.  Bidian filius Israelis t.  et ex monachis Gaufridus prior, Guillelmus Privatus, Girardus cantor et bajalus abbatis, Gradelonis prior sancti Tremori, Karadocus ejus monachus, et multi alii tam clerici quam laici.”

It is clear that many important individuals attested the charter.  Count Alan, Earl of Richmond, heads the list with the Duke of Brittany, Conan, following him.  Count Alan’s brother, Henry, and wife, Berta, complete the highest ranking collection of secular individuals.  Next come the ecclesiastic witnesses, in order of importance.  Two bishops, Radulf and Guido, an archdeacon, Conan, and a chaplain, Robert.  Then, we have the rest of secular individuals, where Geoffrey appears, followed by another group of low-rank ecclesiastics.

As we cannot establish a firm connection between Geoffrey and any of the other individuals, it is likely that Geoffrey was connected in some way to the property in question.  Thus, the inclusion of Remborc may explain the reason for Geoffrey’s appearance. 

It is a shame that Remborc’s precise location remains elusive.  Further study on Geoffrey is likely to be dependent on Remborc’s location as this will allow us to identify source material associated with the area.  That source material may, in turn, lead to further appearances from Geoffrey.  Until that time it is difficult to glean anything substantial about his life and position.  





Stephen son of Mengi

A Stephen son of Mengi can be found mentioned by Clay, commenting on the gifts made by Ralph Morel to Easby Abbey.[2]  Clay states;

“Several gifts made by Ralph Morel to Easby abbey are entered in the chartulary : (a) his capital messuage in the vill of Neuton as held by William Morel his father, with common of turbary (f. 270d); (b) his meadow at Hackelstayn in Neuton (ibid.); (c) his share of the mill of Neuton, namely a moiety, together with his body [for burial] (ibid.); (d) the service of Stephen son of Mengi for 7 acres of land in Neuton (f. 272).”

The charter to which this note is attached is dated to the early 13th century and concerns a gift Ralph made to Brian son of Alan.[3]  Ralph was to pay a rent of 3s for land in Neuton Morrell whilst Brian owed forinsec service for 3 bovates of land. 

It is clear that Stephen son of Mengi was a contemporary of Ralph as his personal service is mentioned above.  It is a shame that we are unable to assign a precise date to the event and that Stephen fails to appear in other documentation.  This means we cannot establish many of the facts of Stephen’s life and his relationship to other Menguis remains hidden for the time being.  However, as with Robert the son of Mengui in Essex, it is interesting to see the subinfeudation of another Mengui under an ecclesiastic foundation.


[1] Early Yorkshire Charters, Volume 4: The Honour of Richmond, Part I.  Edited by William Farrer and Charles Travis Clay.  New York, 2013.  P. 27, No. 25.

[2] Early Yorkshire Charters, Volume 5: The Honour of Richmond, Part II.  Edited by William Farrer and Charles Travis Clay.  New York, 2013.  Pp. 229-230, No. 321.

[3] Brian son of Alan died in 1306 so the gift must have occurred before this date.  See ibid., p. 227.