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In 1327 Sept 26, Abbas et Conventus de Fourneys (Abbot and Convent of Furness; Abbot John of Cockerham) were granted, by Edward III, (In year 1 of his reign) a Royal licence to crenellate Fotheray in Fourneys (Piel Castle, Furness)
Licence for the abbot and convent of Journeys to crenellate their dwelling-house of Fotheray in Fourneys, co. Lancaster. By pet. of C. (CPR)

Abbas et Conventus de Fourneys ... mansum suum de ... Fotheray in Fourneys, Lancastr. (Turner and Parker)

The Abbot of Furness asks that, for his salvation and that of his monks and the country against the Scots, that he might have permission to enclose a messuage called Fowdray in Furness, and to fortify and crenellate it, and to hold it without hindrance from anyone.
Endorsement: Fiat (It is to be done). (National Archive SC 8/47/2333)

Granted at Lincoln. Grant by petition of Council.


Clearly a residence, the access to sea fish and fowl must have made it inviting in Lent. However the main function of the castle was as a defended warehouse for the trade goods, from Ireland and the Isle of Man, which made much of the abbey's money. The activity of pirates, rather than the proximity to Scotland, would necessitate defences (Although many of the pirates were identified as Scots). No local or national events give a particular reason for this licence at this time, although the general insecurity at the start of Edward III reign may have a part to play.

Original source is;

(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)

Significant later sources are;

Abbot John of Cockerham (d. 1347)
Abbot John of Cockerham, elected 1303, died 1347. Cockerham seems to be a Lancashire surname but is not associated with an gentry family. William be Cockerham was granted licence by the Duchy of Lancaster to alienate lands (145 acres in total), at Broughton and Little Marton in Lancashire, to Furness Abbey in 1331, to fund a lamp to burn at high mass. (CPR 1330-34 p. 72) If William was a relative, as seems likely, then John was a local and not from the gentry but not poor either.

More information about licences to crenellate can be found here.

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Record created by Philip Davis. This record last updated on Sunday, October 4, 2015.