Common Time 2019

Winchester College

William of Wykeham's household account roll, 1393


 WCM  1393 Sep 16

Only one household account roll survives for a bishop of Winchester, that for a 6 month period in 1393 for William of Wykeham. It is a mine of information with every purchase and expense minutely described together with the names of guests dining on a daily basis.

This is the first transcript and translation of this surviving account roll, preserved among the Winchester College Muniments, and rightly catalogued there as item number 1. The account roll is 50 feet long (15 metres) and contains over 75,000 words. The transcript and translation is the work of Dr Brian Collins, a volunteer guide at Winchester Cathedral.

1393 was the year when the building of Winchester College and New College in Oxford were substantially complete and when Wykeham turned his attention to the re-modelling of the nave in Winchester Cathedral. Thus we see William Wynford, the master mason, and other craftsmen dining on many occasions, no doubt to discuss the planned works. The account shows that the bishop used revenue from his bishopric to pay for items to add the finishing touches to Winchester College, such as the transportation of stained glass.

Using the account roll and other contemporary documents, Dr Collins's work creates a detailed picture of life in a Winchester bishop's household. Wykeham moved regularly between his manors and we learn who the members of the household were, from the treasurer of Wolvesey to the boy valets and grooms, and we learn about the bishop's guests, from Richard II and his Queen, Anne of Bohemia, to the senior justices in the law.

The accounts also show the truly enormous quantities of food and drink consumed by the bishop's household and guests in just 183 days - more than 33,000 loaves of bread, 17,000 gallons of ale, 22,000 bottles of wine, 43 oxen, 83 pigs, 430 sheep, 9,300 herrings, 26,500 eggs, plus delicacies such as swan, heron, oysters and sturgeon. The church decree of fasting before feast days and abstinence from meat and dairy on Wednesday and Friday is seen to be strictly observed. The entries also tell us what medicines were used in the household, particularly liquorice to aid digestion!

Transcript: recto side: here (26 pages)
verso side: here (86 pages)
Translation recto side: here (23 pages)  
verso side: here (108 pages) 
Glossary of Latin and Medieval English Words: here
Biographies of people mentioned in the account roll: (To follow shortly)
Gazetteer of Place Names:(To follow shortly)
References and list of sources: here
Detailed Analysis: (To follow shortly)
Itinerary of the Bishop: (To follow shortly)

Please note that the work presented here is Copyright © Brian Collins 2015