John of Wallingford (d. 1214)

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For the so-called "Chronicle of John of Wallingford", see John of Wallingford (d. 1258).

John of Wallingford (died 1214), also known as John de Cella, was Abbot of St Albans Abbey in the English county of Hertfordshire from 1195 to his death in 1214. He was previously prior of Holy Trinity Priory at Wallingford in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), a cell of St Albans.

He should not be confused with another John of Wallingford (died 1258), who was a friend of the famous chronicler Matthew Paris; nor with the unknown author of the so-called "Chronicle of John of Wallingford" (ca. 1225–1250), that is included in a manuscript of the papers of the later John of Wallingford.


According to Matthew Paris's Gesta Abbatum ("Actions of the Abbots"), John came from a moderate family not far from a place called Stodham,[1] presumably today's Stadhampton about five miles north of Wallingford. A tradition that he was from the family of John de la Hyde de Southcote, ancestor of the Hyde family of Denchworth, is apparently mentioned by some editions of Burke's Landed Gentry,[2][better source needed] but it is not clear what the basis for this may be.

The Gesta records that John studied in Paris. He gained an excellent reputation and "in grammar, he was considered a very Priscian, in poetry a perfect Ovid, and in physic esteemed equal to Galen".[3] After taking Benedictine vows, he was sent to Wallingford Priory, where he became Prior in 1191. From this he gained his St Albans by-names "de Wallingford" and "de Cella", having been superior of this important cell of the abbey.[4] Four years later, on 20 July 1195, he was elected Abbot of St. Albans, where he presided with "sanctity and success".[4] He rebuilt the refectory and the dormitory, and extended the west front of the abbey church, though not without difficulty: the work "swallowed up the revenues as the sea the rivers, and made no progress", until a simplifed design was eventually completed.[5]

He was regarded by the 19th-century scholar Henry Richards Luard as the originator of the core of Roger of Wendover's Flores Historiarum, which became the first part of Matthew Paris's Chronica Majora, but this has since been questioned.[6] No source of the time makes any mention of him as a historian.

Another of this name[edit]

There has been some confusion, since Thomas Gale at the end of the 17th century, with another John of Wallingford, infirmarius at St Albans, who died in 1258.[7] This John kept a manuscript containing a miscellany of items he had written out (now British Library Cotton MS Julius D VII),[8] mostly taken from the works of the St Albans chronicler Matthew Paris who was a friend of the infirmarius. Some Matthew Paris drawings are bound in the same manuscript, and also a picture and a description of the elephant presented to the King of England in 1255, the first elephant seen in the country. The manuscript also includes the earliest known example of a tide table in Europe, folio 45v entitled "flod at London brigge".

The first thirty pages of the manuscript contain an earlier work in a different handwriting, which Thomas Gale printed as the Chronica Joannis Wallingford ("Chronicle of John Wallingford").[9] This has sometimes been taken to be the work of John the infirmarius, and sometimes that of John the abbot (who Gale confused with the infirmarer). However, there is actually nothing in the manuscript to connect it with either.[10] Careful study suggests it the work of an unknown monk of the second quarter of the thirteenth century, working after the death of John the abbot, who wrote the pages before they came into the possession of John the infirmarer.[11]


  1. ^ Matthew Paris, Gesta Abbatum, vol i., p. 217: non procul a vinculo qui "Stodham" dicitur, ex mediocri prosapia oriundus.
    A partial translation/summary is given by Henry Chauncy in his Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1700), p.263
    See also William Page, ed. (1914), A History of the County of Hertford: volume 4, Religious Houses (Victoria County History series), pp. 372-416.
  2. ^ Cited in a posting to the Rootsweb GEN-MEDIEVAL list, 29 Nov 1999
  3. ^ Matthew Paris, Gesta Abbatum, vol i., p. 217. Apparently the abbot was a judex urinarum incomparabilis (vol i., p. 246.)
  4. ^ a b P.H. Ditchfield and William Page, eds. (1907), A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2 (Victoria County History series), pp. 77-79.
  5. ^ William Page, ed. (1908), A History of the County of Hertford: volume 2 (Victoria County History series), pp. 483-488.
  6. ^ See Flores Historiarum for details.
  7. ^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Wallingford, John of". Dictionary of National Biography 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  8. ^ British Library Manuscripts Catalogue: Cotton MS Julius D VII
  9. ^ Thomas Gale (1691), Historiæ Britannicæ Saxonicæ Anglo-Danicæ Scriptores XV (also known as vol. iii. of Gale and Fell's collection), pp. 525–50.
  10. ^ Joseph Stevenson (1854), The Church Historians of England, vol 2 part 2, pp. xvii–xviii
  11. ^ Richard Vaughan (1958), The Chronicle Attributed to John of Wallingford, Camden Third Series 90, pp 1–74. doi:10.1017/S2042171000000339