The lost village of Stenning, or Estovening, mentioned in Domesday book of 1806 is represented by the site of the moated Estovening Hall, which was the manor house of the Holland family. Ralph, founder of the Estovening Branch of the Holland family was buried in Swinehead Abbey in 1262.
A medieval motte castle is believed to have been constructed in the 12th century by the de Gresley family, lords of the manor of Swineshead at Manwar Ings. The remains of the castle are visible as substantial earthworks, which are a scheduled monument.
King John and Swineshead Abbey
Into Suffolk and Norfolk King John consequently journeyed, with a very strong army of men: and there, with great mischief he afflicted them, because they were sworn to his enemies. After that, he destroyed the Abbeys of Peterborough & Crowland, for the great treasons which they also had wrought against him, and so he departed from thence into Lincolnshire.
And in the same year, King John came to Swinestead (Swineshead) Abbey, not far from Lincoln, where he rested for two days: here he was most traitorously poisoned by a monk of that Abby, of the sect of the Cistercians or St. Bernard’s brethren, called Simon of Swinstead.
A witness, Roger Houden said King John was a mighty prince, but not so fortunate as many were. Not altogether unlike to Marius the noble Roman, he tasted of Fortune both ways: bountiful in mercy: in war sometime he won, sometime he lost. He was also very bounteous & liberal unto strangers, but of his own people (for their daily treasons sake) he was a great oppressor, so that he trusted more to foreigners then to them.
To this King, he was not accepting of being reprehended but commended rather: for that being far from the superstition which kings at that time were commonly subject unto, regarded not the popish Mass.
I find testified, that the king upon a time in his hunting, coming where a very fat stag was cut up and opened (or how the Hunters term it I cannot tell) the king beholding the fatness and the liking of the stag, said he, how easily and happily he hath lived, and yet for all that he never heard any Mass.
It is recorded and found in the Chronicle of William Caxton, called fructus temporum, and in the 7th Book. The foresaid monk Simon, being much offended with certain talk that the king had at his table, concerning Ludouicke the French kings son (which then had entered and usurped upon him) did cast in his wicked heart, how he most speedily might bring him to his end. And first of all he counselled with his Abbot, showing him the whole matter, and what he was minded to do. He alleged for himself the Prophecies of Caiaphas, John 11. saying: It is better that one man die, then all the people should perish. I am well contented (sayeth he) to lose my life, and so become a Martyr, that I may utterly destroy this tyrant.
With that the Abbot did weep for gladness, and much commended his fervent zeal, as he took it. The Monk then being absolved of his Abbot for doing this act (a forehand) went secretly into a garden upon the backside, and finding there a most venomous Toad; he so pricked him, and pressed him with his penknife: that he made him vomit all the poison that was within him. This done, he conveyed it into a cup of wine, and with a smiling and flattering countenance, he said thus to the King:
If it shall like your Princely majesty, here is such a cup of wine, as ye never drunk a better before in all your life time. I trust this Wassall shall make all England glad. With that the King drank a great draught thereof, the King pledging him. The Monk after went to the farmeryre (pharmacy), and there died (his guts gushing out of his belly) and had continually from thence forth three Monks to sing Mass for his soul, confirmed by their general chapter. What became after that of King John, ye shall know right well in the process following. I would ye did mark well the wholesome proceedings of these holy votaries, how virtuously they obey their Kings, whom God hath appointed: and how religiously they bestow their confessions, absolutions and masses.
The king within a short space after (feeling great grief in his body) asked for Simon the monk: and answer was made, that he was departed this life. Then god have mercy upon me (said he) I suspected as much, after he had said, that all England should thereof be glad: he meant now I perceive then of his own generation. He commanded his chariot to be prepared, for he was not able to ride. So went he from thence to Sleaford Castle, and from thence to Newark upon Trent: and there with in less than 3 days he died. Upon his death bed he much repented his former life, and forgave all them with a pitiful heart, that had done him injury, desiring that his elder son Henry might be admonished by his example, and to learn by his misfortunes, to be natural, favourable, gentle, and loving to his native people. When his body was embalmed and spiced (as the manner is of kings) his bowels or entrails were buried at Cropton Abbey, which was of the sect of Premonstratenses or Chanons of S. Norbert.
His hired soldiers, both Englishmen and strangers were still about him, and followed his corpse triumphantly in their armour, till they came to the Cathedral Church of Worcester: and there honourably was he buried by Sylvester the bishop, betwixt S. Oswalde and S. Wolstane. Bishops of that Church. He died in the year of our Lord 1216 the 19th day of October, after he had reigned in such calamity, by the subtle conveyance of his Clergy 18. Years and 6 months, and odd days. So soon as King John was dead and buried (as is said afore) the Princes, Lords and Barons, so many as were of his part (as well of strangers as of them that were born here) by council of the Legate Gualo: gathered themselves together, and all with one consent proclaimed Henry his son for their King. Of whom more shall follow the Lord willing) hereafter.
Many opinions are among the Chroniclers of the death of King John. Some of them do write that he died of sorrow and heaviness of heart, as Polydorus: some of surfetting in the night, as Radulphus Niger: some of a bloody flux, as Roger Houden: some of a burning ague, some of a cold sweat, some of eating apples, some of eating pears, some plums.
Thus you see what variety is among the writers concerning the death of this King John. Of which writers, although the most agree in this that he was poisoned by the Monk above named. (something differing from the other) writing thus concerning his death. That he going from Lynn to Lincolnshire, and there hearing of the loss of his carriage, & of his treasures upon the washes, fell in great heaviness of mind: in so much that he fell thereby into a fever being at the abbey of Swinstead. This ague he also increased through evil diet, by eating peaches and drinking of new Cider, or as we call it Sider. Thus being sick, he was carried from thence to the Castel of Sleaford, and from thence to the Castle of Newark: where calling for Henry his son, gave to him the succession of his crown & kingdom, writing to all his Lords and nobles to receive him for their king. And shortly after departed this life, being buried at Worcester.
Gisburn, I find otherwise, who dissenting from other, sayeth: that he was poisoned with a dish of Pears which the Monk had prepared for the King therewith to poison him. Who asking the King whether he would taste of his fruit, & being bid to bring them in, according to the Kings bidding so did. At the bringing in whereof, saith the said story, the pretious stones about the King began to sweat. In so much the king misdoubting some poison, demanded of the monk, what he had brought. He said: of his fruit, and that very good, the best that he did ever taste, said the King: and he took one of the pears, which he did know, and did eat. Also being bid to take another, did eat likewise and so likewise the third. Then the king refraining no longer, took one of the poisoned pears, and was therewith poisoned, as is before.
This is taken from John Foxes Actes and Monumentes of Christian Martyrs book 4
John was born on Christmas Eve 1167. His parents drifted apart after his birth and his childhood was divided between his eldest brother Henry's house where he learned the art of knighthood and the house of his father's justiciar, Ranulf Glanvil, where he learned the business of government. As the fourth child, inherited lands were not available to him and this gave rise to his nickname Lackland. His first marriage to Isabella of Gloucester lasted only ten years and was fruitless but his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme, bore him two sons and three daughters one of whom was called Joan, she married Alexander II King of Scotland who was the son of King William I "the Lion." John was sent to Ireland as governor but had to be recalled on account of his insolence to the Irish chiefs but despite this Henry II made provisions for his youngest son and when his older brother Richard became king in July 1189 he carried out their fathers wishes. John was made Count of Mortain, which placed him amongst the higher ranks of the Norman barons, but this did not provide him with much income so Richard arranged for John to marry the great heiress, Isabella of Gloucester. She brought with her the Earldom of Gloucester, which made John one of the greatest barons in England and gave him a substantial income. However, there was to be more. John was also granted the honours of Peveril (Derbyshire), Tickhill and Lancaster, two manors in Suffolk, land in Northamptonshire, the profits of Sherwood Forest and the Forest of Andover in Wiltshire. Then, before the end of the year he received the counties of Nottingham, Derby, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall with the vill of Nottingham and its honour. Richard's grants to John virtually created a kingdom within a kingdom and it was hoped that this would satisfy John and keep him quiet when Richard left on crusade. While Richard was out of the country on Crusade and in prison in the Holy Land, William Brewer the great Judge who was the Regent of King Richard I and a sheriff of Nottingham obtained for himself a farm in the Royal Forest of the Peak. Quoting from the history of the Peak, "It would seem also that there was a settled conviction or design known to King John and his friends that King Richard should be kept in prison, for if there had been any idea that the King was going to be released William Brewer would not have dared to take such a property to himself, especially in the time of such a monarch as Richard I." Such was John's loyalty to his brother. In 1199AD when Richard Lionhearted died, John claimed the dukedom of Normandy and then the crown of England. The only possible challange to John was his nephew Arthur who was the prince of Brittany. The French chose Arthur and England chose John. The northern provinces of France now felt a unity with the kingdom of France rather than England. When John returned to France and found that his lands had been given to Arthur he immediately declared war on Arthur and surprised him at Mirebeau. Arthur died while being held prisoner by John in 1203AD and it is suspected that he was murdered on the orders of his uncle John. The Bretons were outraged by the murder of their duke and the French united against John who was forced to return to England at the end of 1203 allowing Philip to claim all his French territories. The death of his mother in 1204 removed the last restraining influence on his crimes and follies and within a year John had lost Normandy, Anjou, Maine, and Touraine. Gradually his subjects became more and more disaffected by his rule.