Beaumont Charters

Scope and Content

This sequence of over one hundred charters relating to abbeys in Normandy was part of a collection assembled by the Abbé Gervais De La Rue (1751-1835), the noted Norman scholar. The documents comprise grants, confirmations of grants, vidimuses, licences and legal agreements concerning lands belonging to abbeys at Ardenne (BMC/1-37), Aunay-sur-Odon (BMC/38-41), Barbery (BMC/42-50), Caen (BMC/51-70), Fècamp (BMC/73-78), Fontenay-le-Tesson (BMC/79-84), Gouffern (BMC/85-90), Troarn (BMC/97-106) and Vignats (BMC/107-113). Among the most interesting items are a Bull of Pope Nicholas III (BMC/62), and a Bull of the Antipope Benedict XIII (BMC/63) relating to the Benedictine Abbey of La Sainte-Trinitè in Caen.

The majority of items relate to houses and their estates in the Dèpartement of Calvados, with smaller numbers concerning the Départements of Manche, Orne and Seine Inférieure. Much of the material dates from the late 12th, 13th and early 14th centuries, constituting a significant source for studies of land-holding and the organization of religious houses in medieval France.

There is also a single item relating to Marrick Priory in Swaledale, North Yorkshire (BMC/91). It is probable that this document did not derive from the Abbé De La Rue, but originated with Thomas Stapleton or Lord Beaumont.


The system of arrangement devised by Robert Fawtier when first cataloguing the collection has been adherred to. He arranged the material geographically, listing places alphabetically: Ardenne, Aunay-sur-Odon, etc. Within each place, Fawtier arranged the items in the numerical order assigned to the documents by the Abbé De La Rue, although the basis of this order is not readily apparent. The documents are now numbered consecutively, BMC/1, BMC/2, etc.

Fawtier's original list omits BMC/51 and no such item exists.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased by the John Rylands Library, via the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, at auction at Sotheby's on 21 October 1920 for £112 (lots 192, 195, 196, 199, 201-203, 205, 207-210, 212, 213, 215-220, 222, 225, 227 and 228) .

Other Finding Aids

The hand-list of the Beaumont Charters was orginally published in Robert Fawtier, Hand-list of charters, deeds and similar documents in the possession of the John Rylands Library, I: documents of which the provenance has been ascertained (Manchester, 1925).

Separated Material

Of the Beaumont Charters which the John Rylands Library failed to purchase in 1920, several are now located in the British Library as a result of resale or gift (Additional Charters 66980, 67574-93, 75503). A charter of Henry I relating to the Abbey of Saint Etienne in Caen is now at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (ref.: MA 1217 ). This item derived from the collection of Ralph C. Runyon, who may have acquired it in 1920. Source: Carlson, p. 12 (see bibliography below). Up to thirty charters for the abbeys of Saint Etienne and La Trinité in Caen, sold in 1920 to a variety of buyers including Maggs, remain untraced.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The charters were formerly part of a collection formed by the Abbé Gervais De La Rue (1751-1835), the noted Norman scholar. As Robert Fawtier delicately phrases it, 'It is perhaps better for the reputation of this learned man that we should not inquire how he became the owner of all these charters. He lived in the days when love of scholarship was great enough to obliterate the sense of property.' De La Rue fled to England in 1792 to escape the Revolution and he remained here until 1797.

In about 1840 the charters were acquired in Paris by Thomas Stapleton (1806-1849), editor of the Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae. Stapleton was the younger brother of Miles Thomas Stapleton (1805-1854), 8th Baron Beaumont, of Carlton Towers, Yorkshire, to whom the charters were probably bequeathed on Thomas Stapleton's death. They remained at Carlton Towers, where they were examined in 1881 by the French scholar M. Lèon Maitre, who made a transcript of some of the documents and summarized others. This transcript is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, ref. nouv. acq. lat. 1428. Sources: de Ricci, Fawtier.

The collection was sold on behalf of Lady Beaumont at auction at Sotheby's in London on 21 October 1920, when it was divided into forty-four lots, of which the John Rylands Library purchased twenty-four.


Eric G. Carlson, 'A Charter for Saint-Etienne, Caen: A Document and its Implications', Gesta, vol. 15, no. 1/2, Essays in honour of Sumner McKnight Crosby (1976), pp. 11-14, relating to Pierpont Morgan MA 1217.

Seymour de Ricci, English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts (1530-1930) and their Marks of Ownership (London: Holland Press, 1960), pp. 189-90.

Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, Catalogue of Important Mediæval Manuscripts and Rare Printed Books ... Which will be sold by auction ... on ... October 21st, 1920, and following day (London: Sotheby's, 1920).

Nicholas Vincent, Norman Charters from English Sources: Antiquaries, Archives and the Rediscovery of the Anglo-Norman Past (London: printed for the Pipe Roll Society by Flexipress, 2013), pp. 24-83.