My article ‘The Depraedatio abbatiae as a source on the uprising against St Edmunds Abbey, 1327-9′ has just been published in Volume 4 of The Journal of Breckland Studies, published by the Breckland Society. This special issue of the journal, delayed by the pandemic, is focussed on Bury St Edmunds and its abbey, and my article takes a detailed look at a document known as ‘the depredation of the abbey’ which gives the monks’ account of the tumultuous events of 1327-29, when the town of Bury St Edmunds rebelled against the abbey and plunged the town into civil war.
The focus of the article is on the strategies employed by the author of the Depraedatio to smear the townsfolk of Bury as allied with the devil, while portraying the monks as aided and protected by St Edmund. The author returns repeatedly to demonological tropes when describing the behaviour of the townsfolk (and the Franciscan friars who supported them), culminating in a terrifying vision of a demon in the cellar of Moyse’s Hall that is surely worthy of any ghost story by M. R. James!
The article concludes that, while the Depredatio is an unreliable source for the events of 1327–29, as an artefact created in the years following the uprising, it may be a more valuable source than hitherto recognised regarding the uneasy peace after the abbey regained control of Bury.