Jenkins, Anne Elizabeth (1988)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
There was a high concentration of royal free chapels in south Staffordshire during the later medieval period. These were churches for which the Crown claimed complete freedom from all ordinary ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Following on from the work of D Styles and J H Denton, this thesis examines the origins of these churches, and the reasons for their special status and high concentration in south Staffordshire.
This study shows that the majority of the royal free chapels in south Staffordshire began life as conventional middle Saxon minster churches, whilst the remainder were lesser minsters, created at some time during the Anglo-Saxon period. Using multi-disciplinary techniques, the extent of the minster parishes surrounding these churches was determined; and the royal free chapels were shown to have been founded within an already well organised and ancient landscape.
It is argued here that this area around south Staffordshire may delimit the heartland of middle Saxon Mercia. It contains possibly tne earliest family churches of Mercian royalty (ie the royal free chapels) and other major Mercian centres (eg Lichfield, Repton). The area was also of great significance in the West Saxon conquest of Mercia. These factors explain the high concentration of royal free chapels in this area, their status, and continuing importance to later medieval kings.
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