Notes and Queries/Series 1/Volume 1/Number 1/Note of a MS. Volume of Chronicles at Reigate


Amongst the objects of the useful medium of literary communication afforded by the publication of "Notes and Queries," one appears to be a record of the casual notice of "some book or some edition, hitherto unknown or imperfectly described." I am induced therefore to inquire, whether the existence of an ancient MS. volume of Chronicles, which I have recently noticed in the little library adjoining Reigate Church, is already known to those who investigate our monastic annals?

This volume may probably not have escaped their research, especially since the republication and extension of Wharton's Collections have been recently proposed. A chronological series of chronicles relating to the see of Canterbury was announced amongst the projected publications of the "Anglia Christiana Society."

The Reigate library, of which brief mention is made in Manning's and Bray's History of Surrey (vol. i. p. 314.) without any notice of its contents, is preserved in the upper chamber of a building on the north side of the chancel, erected in 1513, and designated as a "vestibulum " in a contemporary inscription. The collection is small, and amongst the most interesting volumes is a small folio, in the original oaken boards covered with white leather, presented to the library, 7 June, 1701, by William Jordan, of Gatwick, in the adjacent parish of Charlwood, probably the same person who was member for the borough of Reigate in 1717. Of previous possessors of the book nothing is recorded. It comprises several concise chronicles, which may be thus described:—

  1. "Cathologus Romanorum Pontificum:"—imperfect, commencing with fol. 11; some leaves also lost at the end. It closes with the year 1359, in the times of Innocent VI.
  2. "De Imperatoribus Romanis:"–from Julius Cæsar to the election and coronation of Charles IV. after the death of the emperor Lewis of Bavaria, and the Battle of Cressy, in 1347.
  3. "Compilacio cronicorum de diversis archiepiscopis ecclesie Cantuariensis:"—the chronicle of Stephen Birchington, a monk of Canterbury, printed by Wharton, from a MS. in the Lambeth collection. The text varies in many particulars, which may be of minor moment, but deserve collation. The writing varies towards the close, as if the annals had been continued at intervals; and they close with the succession of Archbishop William de Witleseye, in 1368, as in the text printed by Wharton (Anglia Sacra, vol. i. pp.1–48.).
  4. "De principio mundi, et etatibus ejusdem. De insulis et civitatibus Anglic:"–forming a sort of brief preface to the following–"Hie incipit Bruto de gestis Anglorum." The narrative begins with a tale of a certain giant king of Greece, in the year 3009, who had thirty daughters: the eldest, Albina, gave her name to Albion. The history is continued to the accession of William Rufus.
  5. "Incipit cronica de adquisicione Regni Anglie per Willelmum Ducem Normannorum," &c. closing in 1354, with the birth of Edward of Engolesme, eldest son of the Black Prince. Wharton speaks of "Historiæ de regibus Anglorum, de Pontificibus Romanis, et de Imperatoribus Romanis," as found together with the chronicle of the archbishops of Canterbury; both in the Lambeth MS. and in another formerly in the possession of William Reede, Bishop of Chichester: and he was inclined to attribute the whole to the pen of Birchington.
  6. "Gesta Scotorum contra Anglicos:"—commencing in 1066, with the times of Malcolm, king of Scotland, and ending in 1346, with the capture of David II., and the calamitous defeat of the Scots near Durham.

At the commencement of the volume are found some miscellaneous writings of less interesting character. I noticed, however, an entry relating to the foundation of a chapel at "Ocolte," now written Knockholt, in Kent, by Ralph Scot, who had erected a mansion remote from the parish church, and obtained license for the consecration of the chapel in the year 1281, in the time of Archbishop Kilwardeby.

The writing of this MS. appears to be of the latter half of the fourteenth century. Possibly there may be readers of these "Notes and Queries," more familiar with such inquiries than myself, who may have examined other contemporary MSS. of the compilations of Stephen Birchington. I shall be thankful for any information regarding them, and especially as regards the existence of any transcript of the Canterbury Annals, extended beyond the year 1368, with which this copy as well as that used by Wharton closes ; whilst he supposes that in the chronicle as cited by Jocelin, chaplain to Matthew Parker, they had been carried as far as the year 1382.