Beaumont Casey Jane, Sanctity, reform and conquest at Barking Abbey c. 950-1100, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2011, (University of Liverpool)
This thesis offers a study of the female monastic house at Barking in Essex during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The survival of a large body of hagiographical literature produced for the nunnery at the end of the eleventh century which includes an account of the translation of the saints Æthelburg, Hildelith and Wulfhild, a Life of St Æthelburg, Lessons of St Hildelith and a Life and translation account of St Wulfhild, here enables an in-depth examination of Barking’s experience of the most disruptive century in England’s medieval history. Indications in the texts that the nunnery was subject to unwelcome intervention by a new Norman episcopacy are discussed in relation to the historiographical debate on Norman treatment of Anglo-Saxon saints and their communities. A theme of resistance to outside interference in the Barking hagiographies is also explored in relation to charter and Domesday evidence which suggest that the house had experienced depletion of their landed resources. But while the Barking hagiographies were produced in the eleventh century, there are elements of them which do not appear to respond to the contexts of that time. For that reason, the thesis will also explore earlier contexts at the nunnery, specifically those of Danish invasion, conquest and rule in the earlier eleventh century. There is also reason to examine the relationship between Barking and the queen, as one of the most striking tales in the Life of Wulfhild explicitly condemns the queen’s interference at the nunnery. Barking’s relationships with other female houses also requires consideration due to assertions in the Life of Wulfuild that Barking formed part of a wider group of royal nunneries. Barking’s links to the nunnery of Horton appear to have been particularly strong, and may indicate a context of relic appropriation in the earlier eleventh century. The form and function of the Barking saints, alongside a consideration of authorship and audience, is also undertaken here in an effort to improve our understanding of the various uses of saints’ cults and hagiography in the late Anglo-Saxon and early Anglo-Norman periods. Ultimately, the texts which celebrate the Barking saints reveal the nunnery’s resistance to outside authority, especially at times of political regime change and church reform. This thesis will demonstrate that the saints of the female monastic house at Barking were employed at various points in the eleventh century to protect the community from encroachment of its resources, interference in its management, and threats to its most valuable assets, that is, the saints Æthelburg, Hildelith and Wulfhild.