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from Rome, quite independent of that of Augustine. Birinus,
a " Roman bishop," as the Chronicle calls him, sent out by
Pope Honorius and consecrated by the Archbishop of Milan
at Genoa, converted King Cynegils and planted his see at the
" city called Dorcic," the Oxfordshire Dorchester, in 634. The
usual relapse to Paganism, which appears to have taken place
in all the Saxon kingdoms after their first conversion, followed.
Wessex fell under the power of the heathen king of the
Mercians, Penda. In 643 Cenwalh became king. The Saxon
Chronicle records under that year that he " had (i.e. caused
to be) built the church on Winchester," or, as the two early
eleventh-century editions of the Chronicle put it, built " the
old church ". The later eleventh-century, Canterbury, edition
under the year 648, has " here was built (jgetimbrod} the min-
ster at Winchester that King Cenwalh had made and con-
secrated (gehalfod) in St. Peter's name ". As the original
Chronicle records that Cenwalh was driven out of Wessex by
Penda in 645, and only baptized in East Anglia in 646, and
returned to Winchester in 648, the later edition gives probably
a correct inference as to the date of the building, as Cenwalh,
when he came to the throne, was not a Christian. The con-
version of the " church " of the ninth-century writer into
" minster " in the eleventh shows how the word minster,
which properly means a monastery, had come to mean any great

The Old Minster at Winchester remained a church of
secular clergy until 964, when the priests or canons were
driven out and replaced by monks. The remembrance of this
distinction is vital to the history of schools. For it is partly
under cover of the confusion caused by the term minster that
the modern monastic writers have persistently misrepresented
the early schools as held in monasteries, and monks as the
chief educators. The " auld kirk " or the Old Minster at
Winchester was called old in later days to distinguish it from
Alfred's foundation of the New Minster, consecrated in 903
two years alter his death ; which also was a church of secular
priests, and not of monks, till 964. To the year 648 then,


the foundation of Winchester Grammar School as part of the
foundation of the Old Minster must be imputed.

The bishopric of Wessex was not restored till two years
after the building of the Winchester church, and then at
Dorchester under Angilbert, a " Gaul " who had " stayed no
little time in Ireland to read the Scriptures " a striking testi-
mony to the continental reputation of that island for theo-
logical study. He retired in dudgeon to the bishopric of Paris
in 663 when the King, being tired of a bishop who could not
talk English, divided the Wessex bishopric and set up a native
Englishman, Wini, at Winchester. Wini soon after went to
London, and Wessex was left bishopless. When a Wessex
bishop reappears in 670, under King Cenwalh, in the person
of another " Gaul," Eleutherius or Llothair, nephew of Angil-
bert, it is at Winchester, not at Dorchester, which had then
been permanently annexed to Mercia.

Meanwhile, the first West Saxon school of note has been
claimed to have been not at Winchester, but Malmesbury ; in
connexion with Aldhelm, equally famous as English singer and
Latin poet, who died Bishop of Sherborne in 709. But an
attitude of suspicion and scepticism is required as to ,the life
of Aldhelm, especially as told in the unveracious volumes of
William of Malmesbury, and the recent romance of Bishop
Browne of Bristol, both under the bias of local patriotism. The
latter claims Aldhelm as one in whom met the two streams from
which English educational institutions and learning flowed,
the Roman and the Irish ; as being a pupil both of Abbot
Hadrian of Canterbury and of an Irish hermit named Maidulph
at Malmesbury. The odd thing is that William of Malmesbury
made Aldhelm a pupil of both at once, producing documentary
evidence without perceiving the absolute inconsistency of his
documents with each other and with his own dates of Aldhelm' s
life. He makes Aldhelm a pupil of Hadrian on the strength
of the fragment of a letter credited to Aldhelm in which he
addresses " Adrian" as "the venerated preceptor of my rude
infancy ". Now according to William of Malmesbury, Aldhelm,
who, as we learn from the unimpeachable evidence of Bede,
died in 709, was seventy years old at his death. But Hadrian
only arrived in England in 670, when, on Malmesbury's show-
ing, Aldhelm was over thirty years old. Bishop Browne, to


get over this difficulty, adopts a suggestion in Dr. Giles' edi-
tion of Aldhelm's letters in 1848, that Aldhelm did not refer to
his infancy in age but in learning. This explanation savours
too much of the theological harmonizer. There is no shadow
of a hint in the letter itself that infancy is used metaphorically.
Moreover, Bede's silence is absolutely fatal to Aldhelm's in-
struction by Hadrian. Bede is loud in praise of Aldhelm,
who was by far the greatest literary figure of his age, as being
a "master of style" and "of wonderful erudition both in the
liberal and ecclesiastical writings," i.e. in the classics as well as in
the Scriptures. Careful as Bede is in the case of comparatively
obscure scholars like Tobias and Albinus of Kent, to record
that they were pupils of Theodore and Hadrian, he could
hardly have failed to mention it in the case of ,the far more
famous Aldhelm.

Still less could Bede have failed to mention Aldhelm's
education if it had been under an Irish hermit. William of
Malmesbury's documentary evidence for this is a charter, by
which Bishop " Leutherius " of Winchester purports to grant to
Aldhelm the priest " land the name of which is Maidulphs-
birig ... in which place from the first flower of infancy and
from the very beginning of the rudiments he was brought up
in the liberal studies of letters and nourished in the bosom
of holy mother Church " the last words being a mere
rhetorical amplification of Bede's words. Careful as Bede
was to note the Irish studies of Bishop Angilbert and of
Egbert and the Scottish (i.e. Irish) teacher who taught little
English boys in Northumbria the monastic rule, it is not likely
that he would have left unnoticed this wonderful Irish teacher
who, living among the unconquered Britons, taught a scion of
the royal house of their mortal enemies, the West Saxons.

The charter cited by William of Malmesbury has every
mark of spuriousness, particularly in the excessive amount of
information it contains as to the reason for the grant, the edu-
cation of the grantee, and the exemption of the site granted
from episcopal authority, which was no doubt the real object
of the forgery : an exemption unknown in England in any
genuine charter before the Conquest. Bath Abbey is the first
instance of it. It is certain from this and other indications
that William of Malmesbury had not the least idea that when



BRIT. MUS, MS. ROYAL 5, E. XI., f. 2. b.


Aldhelm was an infant, i.e. under seven years old, a boy up
to fourteen, and a young man, Malmesbury was in a hostile
country. It was not, accepting Malmesbury's dates, until
Aldhelm was nineteen, that West Wiltshire became Saxon
territory by the battles of Bradford-on-Avon in 651, and "at
the Pens" (at Peonnum) in 658. The story he tells of this
Irish philosopher with a school of Saxon youths about him is
therefore simply impossible.

In truth the Irish Maidulph is probably an invention of
William of Malmesbury's own pure brain, an eponymous hero
evolved out of the place-name of Aldhelm's monastery, as
given in Bede, Maildufs town, which much later generations
identified with Malmesbury for the sake of getting the famous
Aldhelm as their patron saint and founder.

It is impossible to deduce Malmesbury out of Maildufs
town. According to Mr. Plummer it is a mixture of M[aildufj-
Ealdemesbury, so representing the names both of Aldhelm
and his teacher; but these and intermediate forms are only
found in late editions of the Chronicle and spurious charters.
According to the episcopal authority of Dr. Browne the place-
name reproduces the very terms in which the Irish teacher
addressed his pupil, mispronouncing his name, Mo-allem, " my
darling-Aldhelm ". So Malmesbury is " my-darling-Aldhelm's-
borough ". William of Malmesbury tells us that Mailduf was
also called Meldum, and so gets Meldumsbury. The place-
name Malmesbury is susceptible of a very obvious derivation :
as being the bury or fortified hill of malm. Malm is a soft friable
rock consisting largely of chalky material ; and mealm, the
Anglo-Saxon spelling of it, appears in Alfred's Orosius with
that meaning. The Ordnance geological survey shows Malmes-
bury as the northernmost and culminating point of a narrow
streak of "cornbrash," or malm, which lies west of the chalk
which forms the greater part of Wilts. It is one of the class
of place-names which are descriptive of the soil of which it is
composed, like Claygate, Sandy, Broadchalk, and Marlborough
in Wiltshire itself.

There is no more reason to identify Malmesbury with Bede's
Maildufs town than there is to identify Boston with Bede's
Icanho, Beverley with his Inderawald, or Southwell with his
Tiovulfingaceaster. They are all identifications by ecclesiastics


in search of a patron saint several centuries after the Danish
destruction of the places mentioned in Bede. We do not even
know that Maildufs town was in Wiltshire. That Mailduf is
a Celtic name is most probable, but there is nothing to tell us
whether the particular Celt who gave his name to the place
lived twenty or one hundred or two hundred years before

Fabricius, who wrote a life of Aldhelm nearly a generation
before William of Malmesbury, being a medical man, doctor
indeed to Henry I before he became a monk, a less romantic
historian, was significantly ignorant of either the African-
Kentish or the Irish- Wiltshire teachers. He says that Aldhelm
was put by his most Christian father to the holy studies of
literature and astonished his teachers by the quickness of his
apprehension and the retentiveness of his memory. He makes
no attempt to say who the teachers were, though he credits
Aldhelm with knowing not only Greek as well as Latin, but also
" the Psalms, Solomon's three books, and the Law of Moses
in Hebrew". As for the Hebrew credat Judaeus Apelta. To
Bede, Aldhelm' s early life was known only in connexion with
Winchester. For he says, on the authority of Pecthelm, a
West Saxon, who became Bishop of Whithern in Galloway,
and was one of Bede's principal informants as to Wessex history,
that Aldhelm was with himself " a deacon or monk for a long
time under Hedde " (for so he is spelt in the earliest version
of the Chronicle), bishop of Winchester from 676 to 703, whose
miracles Aldhelm and he witnessed. Mr. Plummer, by a very
exceptional lapse from accuracy, has mistranslated Bede's
cum successore suo Aldhelmo in his edition of Bede as meaning
that Pecthelm was under Aldhelm as " deacon and monk ".
The " deacon or monk " of Bede was no doubt because
Bede's notes were uncertain on the point, and as a monk
he wanted to claim Aldhelm as such from his youth. The
doubt is almost conclusive that in fact he was a secular.
There is a fragment of a letter, which may or may not be
genuine, purporting to be addressed to Aldhelm by a certain
Scot (quodam Scoto\ i.e. Irish monk, asking Aldhelm, when
abbot, to take him in and teach him, and he bases the request
on the ground that he is a foreigner, " because you too were
a foreigner in Rome, and moreover were nurtured by a holy


man of my race ". If the letter is genuine, it looks as if
Aldhelm was taught by the holy Irishman at Rome,
or he might well have come in the train of Bishop
Angilbert, and have taught Aldhelm at Winchester. It is
in connexion with Winchester that we find the long ac-
count of Aldhelm's studies, which is the locus classicus for
English learning at the time. This occurs in a letter addressed
to Bishop Hedde, guessed by the editors to be " about 680,"
though it might just as well belong to any year of Hedde's
bishopric. In it Aldhelm pleads his studies as an excuse for
not spending the coming Christmas at Winchester " dancing
(tripudians) in the company of the brethren" the earliest re-
ference in England to the Christmas high jinks, descended
from the Roman Saturnalia, which afterwards became connected
with those curious medieval institutions, the Boy-bishop, the
Feast of the Ass, and the Lord of Misrule. It has been sug-
gested that the reference to his dancing shows that Aldhelm
was still quite a young man. But old men and high dignitaries
of the Church did not disdain to take part in these festivities.
Though the more puritanical spirits, as early as the twelfth
century, thought such customs, as that of the Archbishop of
Rheims playing ball in the cathedral with his clerks, better
honoured in the breach than in the observance, they lasted till
the Reformation ; only to be superseded by interludes and plays
presented by the schoolmasters and their scholars.

"For," is Aldhelm's excuse, "no small time must be
spent in the pursuit of reading by one who . . . would at the
same time explore Roman Law (the Code) to the marrow, and
examine all the mysteries of the 1 Roman Lawyers (the Digest) ;
and at the same time, what is much more difficult, digest the
hundred kinds of metres into prose rules, and explore the
mixed modulations of song in the straight path of syllables "
by which he seems to have meant writing Latin verses which
would scan. Prosody, with all its terrible Greek technical
terms, acephalos, lagaros, catalectic and brachycatalectic and
the like, he found especially difficult because there were so
few teachers. Aldhelm was also studying mathematics, which
oppressed him much as they do the ordinary classical scholar to-
day. " The despair of doing sums oppressed my mind so
that all the previous labour spent on learning, whose most


secret chamber I before believed myself to know, seemed
nothing, and to use St. Jerome's expression, I, who before
thought myself a past master, began again to be a pupil. At
last an opportunity presented itself, and by the help of God's
grace, I grasped, after incessant study, the most difficult con-
tent of things, that which lies at the base of reckoning ; what
they call fractions ' '. He went further than this, into Astronomy,
no doubt as expounded by Boethius; but of this "as to the
Zodiac and its twelve signs which circle in the height of
heaven I say nothing, lest ... it should be made to seem
cheap and worthless : especially as skill in astrology and the
computation of horoscopes needs elaborate explanation from
some one more learned than myself." Bishop Hedde, whom
Bede describes as " a good man who exercised the teaching
function of a bishop more through his natural love of virtue
than through a literary education," must have felt rather re-
lieved at the absence of such a prodigy of learning. One
would like to know where Aldhelm was when he wrote. The
prominence given to Roman law and prosody almost looks as
if he was at Rome.

Great student, however, as this letter sufficiently shows
Aldhelm to have been, there is no evidence (beyond the
doubtful fragment of the begging Irish monk) that he was
ever a schoolmaster or teacher at Mailduphstown or any-
where else. Certainly his works are not of a scholastic but of
a theological and literary character. It would be beyond the
scope of this book to follow Aldhelm through his Latin verses
on the Praise of Virginity addressed to the lady who re-
joiced in the name of Bugge or Bug : or his theological anim-
adversions on the proper time of keeping Easter directed to
the Welsh prince Gerontius, whom Newman exploited ; or his
clever and witty riddles in Latin verse, which we may read
with admiration and pleasure even now. It may be noted
that there is no evidence whatever that he knew Greek a
fact which is almost conclusive against his being a pupil of
Hadrian's all the Greek words used by Aldhelm being taken
second-hand from the grammarians or the Latin fathers and
ecclesiastical Latin. On the other hand, he knows his Virgil
by heart, and quotes or adapts or imitates him a thousand
times. He also knew at first hand, Ovid, Horace, Juvenal,


O =


Persius, Lucan, Claudian, Terence, and Seneca. He knew all
the Christian Latin poets, Ausonius, Sidonius Apollonaris,
Prudentius, affecting especially those curious authors who
versified the Bible, Sedulius, Juvencus, Avitus, Arator, Proba.
His acquaintance with the Latin grammarians, Priscian, Don-
atus, Servius, the Virgilian commentator, Sergius Pompeius
Trogus, Phocas, was extensive, and he was intimate with Isidore
of Seville. Cicero, Sallust, and Pliny were perhaps known only
at second-hand through Priscian. He was thoroughly at
home in the late Latin authors in prose, Sulpicius Severus,
Augustine, Orosius, Cassian, and St. Cyprian.

Mr. Wildman in his History of Sherborne has claimed
Aldhelm as the founder of Sherborne School. Since Aldhelm
was, as Bede tells us, the first bishop of that see, established
west of the forest of Selwood, by division of the Winchester
diocese on Hedde's death in 705, the claim must be pro-
nounced prima facie a good one. Sherborne was a college of
secular clerks until it ceased to be a cathedral in 1075, when
it was converted into an abbey. There is evidence in the
fifteenth century of the grammar school being carried on, not
in the abbey nor under a monk, but under a secular master,
known to us by his munificent subscription to the rebuilding
of St. John's Hospital there. The last master before the dis-
solution became the first master of the Free Grammar School
of King Edward VI, which took its place, when, as at St.
Albans, it occupied the Lady Chapel of the monastic church
for its schoolroom. So a patriotic Sherbornian may well claim
its creation by Aldhelm and continued existence from his day
to our own, when it again finds itself under a Winchester-bred
scholar, Mr. Nowell Smith.

Mercia and the Middle English, under the warlike King
Penda, remained heathen long after the rest of England. Only
after their conquest by the Northumbrian King Oswy in 665
did the Mercians become Christians, and shared a bishop
whom the Middle English had set up two years before in the
person of the Scot (Irish) Diuma. He and his successors, in-
cluding even the English-born, though Scottish-bred, Trum-
here, seem to have been wandering missionary monks with no
fixed see. Not till 669 was a bishop's see settled at Lichfield
under Ceadda, or St. Chad, who lived in a mansion there with


a band of seven brethren and a lay-brother, an ex-Court
official, who looked after their worldly wants and managed
their property. In 672, one of these brethren, Wynfrid, a
clerk, and not a monk, succeeded St. Chad. From his date
we can postulate the establishment of a school in Mercia, and
that at Lichfield. A few years later two more Mercian bishop-
rics were established, one west of the Severn at Hereford, the
first mention of which is the death of its bishop, Putta, in 688,
and another about the same time at Worcester for the Huicci,
originally a branch of the West Saxons, and part of Wessex.
Hereford and Worcester no doubt date their schools from that

It is to Oftfor, a pupil of Archbishop Theodore at Canter-
bury, or his predecessor as bishop, Bosel, that we must assign
the credit of establishing education and founding a school at
Worcester. Oftfor was himself a Northern Englishman, a
Northumbrian. Bede records that after he had worked hard
in both monasteries of the Abbess Hilda (i.e. at Hartlepool
and Streaneshalch, the latter rightly or wrongly afterwards
identified with Whitby) in reading and practising the Scrip-
tures, desiring higher work he went to Canterbury to Arch-
bishop Theodore of blessed memory, and having spent some
time on sacred reading there, took the pains even to go to
Rome, which at that time was thought to require great courage.
Returning thence, he went to the province of the Hwicci over
which King Osric then presided, and stayed there a long time
preaching the word of faith and setting an example of how to
live. Meanwhile, as the prelate of that province, Bosel, was
so infirm as to be unable to perform the duties of a bishop,
Oftfor was, in 691, unanimously elected bishop in his place.
Tatfrid, who had been at the same monastery as Oftfor, and
had been elected bishop a little while before Bosel, died before
he was consecrated. From the words " a little while before,"
Mr. Plummer, in his edition of Bede, argues that the frustrated
election of Tatfrid and the erection of the see of Worcester in
the person of Bosel could not have been earlier than 685. As
the erection of a bishop's see carried with it the erection of a
school, we may therefore date the school from 685, or, if Bosel
was already too infirm to start a school, at least from the acces-
sion of the travelled and learned pupil of Theodore in 691.


The Cathedral Chapter at Worcester was originally one of
secular clergy, as it was everywhere in England as elsewhere,
till the monastic movement connected with the names of
Dunstan and Oswald at Worcester. The notion put forward
by the late Bishop Stubbs in his early days, that there was a
double establishment of clerks and monks, has no evidence
to support it. It was founded on a general theory wrongly
evolved from a misunderstanding of Bede's account of Canter-
bury, already discussed.

There are indications of considerable learning among this
secular clergy in some scanty remnants of early MSS., which
Canon J. Maurice Wilson has recently found in the bindings
of later MSS. belonging to the later monastic library. They
comprise a leaf of the end of St. Matthew's and beginning of
St. Mark's gospel in the Vulgate, written in England in the
later seventh or early eighth century, some leaves of Jerome's
commentary on St. Matthew, written in Spain not later than the
middle of the eighth century, a leaf of Gregory's Pastoral Care
in English writing of the same period, and extracts from
Paterius in Italian script, but corrected by an English hand.




IN the eighth century the centre of interest in English
schools is to be found no longer in the south but in the
north. As in the seventh century English learning was
embodied in the names of Theodore and Aldhelm, so now it
is connected with the names of Bede and Alcuin.

The beginning of education in Northumbria has been often
attributed to Bede and of York School itself to Archbishop
Egbert. But just as Canterbury School must be attributed to
Augustine, and not to Archbishop Theodore, who taught it,
so York School must be attributed, not to the later archbishop
who taught it, but to Paulinus, the founder and first bishop
of the church of York. The continuance of the song school
under James the Deacon after Paulinus' flight is indirect testi-
mony to the fact that Paulinus had established both grammar
and song schools there, and to the revival also of the grammar
school with the return of Christianity. The learned and
Romanizing Wilfrid is not likely to have neglected the grammar
school any more than the song school. In regard to the latter,
we learn from Eddi, whose Christian name was Stephen, that
on Wilfrid's return to Yorkshire from Canterbury, where he
acted as bishop during the vacancy of the see before the
Greek Theodore's arrival, he took back with him the singers
(cantatores), Eddi and Eonan, and masons, and instructors in
almost every craft (artis}. Eddi was the biographer himself.
Bede, rather inconsistently with what he had said before, says,
" and from this time in all the English churches they began
to learn the tones 'of the chants (sonos cantandi) which till
then they had only known at Canterbury ; and the first song
master in. the Northumbrian churches, except James above-
mentioned, was JEddi, surnamed Stephen, who was invited from



Kent by the most reverend Wilfrid". Of Acca, who became
Bishop of Hexham in 709, Bede, who knew him well, speci-

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