Prudum, Produm etc., of Exeter and the first city seal (1915)

Author(s): Lega-Weekes. Miss E. Origin: DA Transactions
Topic(s): documents Year published: 1915
Location(s): Exeter Pages: 248-256
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By Miss Ethel Lega-Weekes, F.R.HIST.S. (Read at Exeter, 21st July, 1915.)

AMONG the treasures of the City Corporation is the silver matrix of the first Common Seal of the City of Exeter, a full description and illustration of which will be found in a Monograph on The Exeter Civic Seals, by H. Lloyd Parry, B.A., B.SC., LL.B., Town Clerk (Commin, 1909).

The earliest impression of this seal yet discovered is said to be the one attached to a document in the Chapter Archives (No. 293), which is witnessed by William Derling, Mayor, and by Philip Belebuche and John Pundinge, Prepositi. Izacke does not give any of these names in his list of Mayors and Bailiffs of the period, but Oliver (City, p. 228) tells us that he has met with this Mayor between the years 1210 and 1216, during Eudo de Beauchamp’s Shrievalty of Devon.

Another Chapter document (No. 284), of which I have printed an abstract,* is witnessed by William Dorling, Mayor, William Hastement and Philip Belebuche, Preposit(?i). This is self-dated 10 John (i.e. May, 1208 – May, 1209), and declares itself to be “sealed with the Common Seal of the City”, and with that of Walter, Archdeacon of Cornwall. Unfortunately only the latter remains.

(*) D. & C. N. & Q., April, 1915, Appendix, p. 111.

On the back of the matrix above referred to, are engraved the names of William Prudum as donor, and Lucas as maker, thus :–


It has been supposed, very naturally, that this was the same William Prudom who is stated by Oliver to have founded in 1170 the Hospital of St. Alexius,* but I am sorry to say investigation of Oliver’s authorities has left a doubt in my mind whether any Prudom was, in reality, connected with that Institution.

(*) See Oliver’s City, p. 225; his Hist. Collns., 1820, p. 93; and his Monasticon, p. 300; also Dugdale’s Monasticon, VI, 697.

According to St. John’s Cartulary (f. 58) the “Hospital of St. Alexius, Behind the Monastery of St. Nicholas”, was founded “about 1170, XII Hen. Fitz Empress” (“XII” being, as Oliver points out, doubtless a slip of the pen for XVII), by William Fitz Ralph; and I have seen an original Charter (Corpn. 149) by which Odo, Bp. of Battle, confirms a Grant of the site by his predecessor Walto de Sancto Martino to William son of Ralph (Will’o fil’ Rad’).

Prince (Worthies of Devon, p. 364) writes, “I find the family of Fitz Ralffe to have flourished in these parts from the Norman Conquest down to the days of K. Edward I . . . when it did not expire, but only exchanged its name into that of Shillingford, their new habitation near the City of Exeter. They had their first dwelling in this County at Widdicombe in the Moor (Sir W. Pole’s MS. of Devon).”

Doubtless there were other Fitz Ralphs unrelated by blood. For Richard Fitz Ralph and Ralph Cornutus of Brecon, see Dugd. Monast. (Index), and Theoph. Jones, Hist. Brecon, 1805 (I, 91).

Crossing (MS. Hist., written c. 1685, fol. 1) alludes to the founder of St. Alexius as “William Fitz Ralph, a good Citizen of this Cittie”.

As to the origin of this Hospital, Oliver has printed in his Monasticon (p. 302) the section of St. John’s Cartulary referred to above; but the document that he cites in his Historic Collections (p. 93) is a single sheet of paper that has been stitched (sidewise) into the Register of Bishop Bronescombe (1257–80) between ff. 17–18. It is headed “True Copy of the first and second Foundation of SS. Alexius & John Baptist” (Vera Copia p’me ac 2e Fundac’ Scõr’ . . . etc.), and comprises a verbal transcript of the matter beginning on folio 58 of the Cartulary, down to the words . . . “in rebus suis locandis”, with the addition of a chronological list of events, not carried farther than “MCCCXLVIII”; but it differs from the Cartulary, in that above the name “Willielmus filius Radulphi”, as Founder of the Hospital of St. Alexius, the word “Produm” has been added; being interlined in the same hand, and with the same pale black ink (contrasting with the dark brown ink of the text) as the heading “Vera Copia”. . . etc. (which, by the way, is written upside-down on the foot margin of the paper).

The “Vera Copia” has been printed in full by Preb. Hingeston-Randolph (Bronescombe, H.-R., p. 288), who remarks of the heading—if not of the whole sheet—that it is in the handwriting of Bishop Grandisson (1327–69), who, he says, recovered the lost Register of Bp. Bronescombe in London. (I must own that comparison with the unquestionable specimen of Grandisson’s hand at the beginning of the Legenda Sanctorum in the Cathedral Library, leaves me unconvinced.) If it was written by any one as early as Bp. Grandisson, it must be copied—not from the Cartulary*—but from some common source; in any case, the word “Produm” is an interpolation.

(*) The Vera Copia has the same discrepancies in two instances between the A.D. and the Regnal year as the Cartulary; but a few words are differently spelt; e.g. the Copia has “Illisbery” for “Irlesberi”, “Emilt” for “Emild”. Oliver makes a few lapsûs calami, e.g. “quatuor” for “iijs“, “mccxliii” for “mccxliiij”, “Hank” for “Hanc”; and he inaccurately cites from the Vera Copia “William Prodom son of Ralph Prodom”; the word “Prodom” is not repeated.

This is the only instance I have met with in any document of the name Prodom, Prudum, etc., in connection with the Hospital behind St. Nicholas’.

The interpolator may have been in possession of evidence, lost to us, that justified the insertion; on the other hand, he may have mistakenly confounded the benefactor of St. Alexius’ with a William Prudom who, as I shall show, was a benefactor of St. John’s Hospital early in the thirteenth century.

The term “Probus Homo”, with its Norman-French variants Probe-, Prode-, Preud-homme and Preux (whence Prouze), seems to have been originally a style recognising valour, worth, or position of Civic authority, particularly as applied to members of “an elected body of Citizens forming a Common Council”,* and William Fitz Ralph might possibly have acquired such an additional appellation by virtue of his own merits or office; but I am inclined to think that by the thirteenth century, at least, Prudom had become in Exeter an established hereditary surname.

(*) See Kelham, Martin, and Round’s Cal. of Documents in France (p. 84), wherein the Prudhommes of Pont Audemar (c. 1160) = “persons in civic office or authority”.

The earliest deed in which I have found it is one (D. & C. 319) dated by Stuart Moore “? 1150”, but I should say, rather, 1170,¹ whereby Probushomo, son of Segar (fili’ Segari), with the consent of his spouse and heirs, granted to the two (?) Saddlers (duo3 Sellariis), Richard and William, a certain land in St. Martin’s Street for 2s 8d per annum, the grantees giving him a gold ring in acknowledgment.²

(¹) The date I infer from collation with D. & C. 318 and 3672.

(²) This is witnessed by H’bto filio Rog’i, Teobaldo m’catore, Ailwardo leuieke, Will’o nepote, Joh’e filio Odonis, Godefr’ Sellar’, Aluredus Quinel, Walt’ fil’ Hen . . . Rog’ Burwine, Joel fil’ . . . Walt’de Mausart, Ric’ Caupone, Ric’ mauset, Will’o fil’ Thome.
SEAL:— A bird (? eagle or ? raven) close, regardant, SIGILLUM. prod. . . . AR. It is endorsed “Warant’ Mariote, de Dom’ in Exon’ in Vico Sci Martini”.

A deed (Cal. D. & C. 41) entered in the Calendar as of “1240” refers to a rent which used to be paid to the grantor, Walter de Cardif, by Isabel who was wife of Walter Probus, from houses in High Street between the houses of the Hospital of St. John opposite St. Lawrence’s Church.

A “Walter Probus, Prepositus”, witnesses a Grant that I have seen in the Archives of the Vicars’ Choral, to which “William Hastement then Mayor” was another witness (indicating the date to be 1248–9). Izacke gives “Walter Good” as Bailiff in 1248.

A Martin Prodhomme was a Canon of Exeter tempore Bp. Brewer (1227–43), and presumably died in 1245, as he was succeeded in his Canonry on 21 January of that year by one Peter Chacepore.*

(*) Grandisson’s Register, H.-R., p. 1089. Quivil’s Register, H.-R., p. 491.

A Chapter Rental (D. & C. 3721), apparently of the thirteenth century, has (between items of Staverton and “Aspertona”, the entry, “From the Lea of M. (? Master or Martin) Prudome, 3s 4d (De Lega M. pdome, iijs iiijd)”.

A Deed (Corp. 594) [“c. 1200”, Stuart Moore; but I say 1219] is witnessed, inter alia, by Martin Prudom and William Prodom.*

(*) Hiis testib3 Dno S. Archid’ Exon’, Dno S. Archid’ Cornub’, Dno J. Archid’ Totton’, Dno H. de Wilton’, Archid’ Tanton’, Magro Ysaac, Magro H. de Warewik, Rogero Cole, Magro Will’o de Lingefr’, Magro Ric’ Albo, Magro Barthol’, medico, Barthol’ nepoti quondam Archid’ Cornub’, Dno Yllario tunc p’posito Exon’, Waltero fil’ Thurb’, Rog’ fil’ Henr’, Sampson’ Rof, Joh’e Capun, Nichol’ Gervas’, Martino pdom, Andrea Turri, Martino Rof, Will’o pdom, Rog’o Lidene, Laurencio le taillur, Joh’e cl’ico.

Martin Prudom’s residence seems to have adjoined—if not to have been identical with—certain premises between High Street and the Cemetery that are specified in the Charter of endowment by the brothers Gilbert & John Long, of the Hospital of St. John within the East Gate.

A Grant by William de Bozun de Clyst, entered in the Cartulary of St. Nicholas’ Priory (Collect. Topogr. & Geneal., Vols I & II, No. 371), is witnessed by “Martin Prodome and William his brother”.

William, the brother of Martin, I take to be identical with a William Prudom, “Cleric” (and inferentially Canon), who, as I find from the Cartulary of St. John’s Hospital, etc., occupied part of a tenement¹ in St. Martin’s Street, alias Canons’ Street, that had been given to that Hospital by one or both of the Brothers Long.²

(¹) Prudom’s part is proved to have consisted of (or to have included) the eventual Residence of the Archdeacons of Totnes, now the “Cathedral School” for Boys, behind the house of Dr. Wood, the Cathedral Organist.

(²) For authorities and further particulars as to this and other matters touched on in this paper see my Studies in the Topography of the Cathedral Close, Exeter (Commin, 1915).

To cite one of the many deeds relating to this property, No. 291 in the Chapter Archives is a grant by John Long, son of Walter, to William Pro[do]me, Cleric, of the land in which the sd. John [? and his father & others] used to live in St. Martin’s Street, for the annual rent of half a Mark (6s 8d), which after John’s death was to be paid in perpetuity to the Brethren of St. John’s Hospital.

Mr. Stuart Moore dates this Lease, interrogatively “c. 1200”; and it may well have preceded the Longs’ general endowment of the Hospital; but if rightly dated would show the Hospital to have been founded even earlier than 1225 (the earliest hitherto established period of its existence).

The Cartulary states that “Afterwards William Produm acquired from the sd. hospital, and again resigned to it, all his right, before the Chapter of St. Peter, the Mayor of Exeter being present”; and it cites the following deed which bears no date, but must have been executed considerably before 1244, and I think between 1220-1228.

Deed :—To all Faithful Christians, etc., William Produm, Greeting, etc. Know that for love of God, and for the help of my Soul and of my predecessors’, I give to the Hospital House of St. John near the East Gate, in pure and perpetual Alms, the Houses with appurts. in which I used to live in St. Martin’s Street, Exeter, etc. Witnessed by Stephen, Chaplain, John & Roger, Chaplains, etc.

Taking into account, on the one hand, the quasi-Norman style of the buildings in the design of the Seal, and its occurrence as early at least as 1209, and, on the other hand, the approximate date of the relinquishment by William Prodome, Cleric, of the property in St. Martin’s Street, and the fact that he would not have been likely to give it up before the close of his life, I consider it highly probable that this William was the donor to the Corporation of the silver matrix, and that this interesting object may still date back to the twelfth century. It is true that Prudum does not style himself “Cleric” thereon, but then, neither does he so describe himself in his Deed-Poll; and the inscription behind the seal is of a distinctly pious character (though, indeed, such would have been appropriate enough to a layman in those days, when the religious spirit was manifest in even the most secular undertakings).

William the Cleric can hardly be identical, I think, with the William who occurs in the following extracts :–

Grant of 1242 (Bronescombe’s Register, H.-R., p. 5) by the Bishop to the Church of Crediton, witnessed there inter alia by “Martino Prodhumme, Exonia Canonico”, and “Willelmo le Pruz, Junior”.

Grant, 1252,* of the Land of Clist by Martin Rof (presumably the one who was Mayor between 1233 and 1252). Witnessed inter alia by Will, de Englefield, Vicecom. Devon. (Sheriff of Devon 36–39 Hen. III, 1251–4) and Will. Pruz, then Bailiff (Ballivo) of the Earl of Cornwall in Exeter.

(*) Cartul. St. Nich. Priory, No. 373, as calendared in Collect, Topogr. & Genealog., Vols. I and II.

Grant (D. & C. 314) [? 1267–64] by Richard Gambon to John de Wyndlesore, of two marks (36s 8d) annual rent from the tenement that was formerly of Martin Proddome, and that extends in length from the High Street to the Cemetery of St. Peter, and in width lies between the tenement of Floerius and the tenement of Lucas Hanec. Witnessed by William Probus, Steward, or Bailiff, of the Lord Richard, King of Germany (. . . W’ll’o pbo tunc senescalli d’ni R3 Reg’ Alimann’).*

(*) Richard, brother of King Henry III, created Earl of Cornwall in 1226 (though the County was not bestowed on him till 1231, nor the Forest of Dartmoor till 1239), was “given Exeter” in 1227. He was elected King of the Romans 1256, crowned 1257, and in the same year nominated Emperor of Germany. (Vide Rev. O. J. R. in D. A. Trans. xxxiv.573, etc. Izacke, Memorials, p. 7 Hayden, Dict of Dates.)

A Deed of 1249 of Warin de Bodetune to the Abbot of Buckfast, and an Agreement of 1269–70, to which Henry, Abbot of Buckfast, was a party, are both witnessed by a “Willelmo Probo”.

Many later instances of the name Prudom, variously spelt, will be found in the Index to H.-R.’s edition of the Episcopal Registers.

To pass to the subject of the design of the first Common Seal, the central building was considered by Oliver to represent the Hospital of St. John, but it certainly does not resemble the structure (equally early in character) that appears on the “second seal” of that Hospital, nor does there arise from its roof the cross which would surely have distinguished such a religious Institution. I should rather fancy that it typified (without attempting accurately to portray) the City Guildhall—the focus of Corporation life; and that it was more or less faithfully copied on the “First Seal” of the Hospital, in allusion to the Mayor and Commonalty’s patronage of this Foundation; but perhaps this is to allow too much play to the imagination, and Mr. Lloyd Parry’s surmise may be the truest—that the central building on the Common Seal is merely typical of the whole City, as encompassed by a Wall, and defended by towers.

The devices in the upper part of the Seal, viz. a disc which probably is intended for the sun, though it is without rays, a crescent moon and a star, may be, as Mr. Lloyd Parry suggests, purely ornamental; but they challenge one to the interpretation of their possible significance.

The date of the document on which this Seal first appears, if unassailable, is fatal to the theory one might otherwise have hazarded that these devices were intended to honour Richard, Earl of Cornwall, by reference to the mines from which he derived his wealth; but I find it hard to relinquish a notion that they are, for some reason or another, allusive to the Stannaries.

The Sun in its Glory and a crescent moon are charges in the Arms of the Borough of Ashburton; and Mr. John Amery kindly informs me that these Arms are derived from the Seal of the Gild of St. Lawrence of Ashburton, and may be seen on the seal attached to the Deed of Acceptance by that Gild, of Bishop Stapledon’s gift to them of a Chantry Chapel, in 1314, now among the Chapter Archives.

The sun and moon (which in the Arms are flanked by a teasel, representing the woollen industry) are said to be indicative of the mining interests of the place—one of the three oldest chartered Stannary Towns of Devon—as being the supposed devices of the Phoenicians; for though modern criticism has routed the Phoenicians from Cornwall (see Rev. S. Baring-Gould’s Cornwall, p. 80, in “Cambridge Series of County Geography”), the belief in their patronage of the metals of that region would seem to be of long standing.

Dartmouth, “the only Port in Devon whence tin could be exported”, says Mr. Amery, has in its first corporate Seal a King seated in a boat, with dots on the background that may be intended for stars, and a crescent near the dexter side of his head, commemorating—it is suggested—King John’s visit and grant of a Mayoralty to Dartmouth in 1214 (D. A. Trans. xii. 574). The next seal has also a king, resembling Edward Ill, in a boat, with a crescent on one side of his head, and a star on the other.

The Seal of Pevensey has a ship with a crescent on the dexter, and star on the sinister side of the mast (Traill, Social England, 367).

The Kings Richard I, John, and Henry III are all said to have used a star (? of Bethlehem), resting between the horns of a crescent, as their badge (Heraldic Badges, Fox-Davies, 52); and we are told that this was assumed by Richard I in token of his victories over the Turks (Mrs. Palliser’s Historic Devices, etc., p. 357), but the explanation does not cover the fact that the Seal of King Stephen (who by the way, was Earl of Moretain and Cornwall before he was crowned) has a seven-pointed star on the dexter side of his head.

Pending a more satisfactory elucidation of the devices on the Exeter Seal, let me fall back on the text (1 Cor. xv. 41): “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars”, and regard them as symbolising the three dominant powers of the City—the Crown, the Church, and the Commonalty.