St Frideswide’s monastery reached its lowest point in the fire on St Brice Day, 13th November 1002, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Brice%27s_Day_massacre, and this is referred to by King Ethelred II in his foundation charter of 1004 (Cartulary of St Frideswide). In defence of King Ethelred, the country had been experiencing repeated Danish raids and some Danes had even settled and begun to trade. Oxford was one place this was happening, and Ethelred had been warned that the Danish men in England "would faithlessly take his life, and then all his councillors, and possess his kingdom afterwards". Anglo Saxon chronicles 1002.
It is believed that Gunhilde, who may have been the sister of King Sweyn I of Denmark and her husband Pallig Tokesen, the Danish Ealdorman of Devonshire, may also have died in the massacre, and Sweyn retaliated with a devastating raid on Oxford in 1009.
This translation is from James Parker Early history of Oxford page 142, this is a continuation of the first section in Who is St Frideswide?
‘….and for all those who shall look upon this page I will recount by means of very few words the reason why this was done. For it is certain enough that it must be very well known to all inhabitants of this country that since there was issued a certain decree made by me with the advice of my nobles and princes, that all the Danes who had risen up in this island by increase like tares amidst the wheat should be slain by a most just destruction. And this decree was carried into effect to the very death; but whatever Danes were living in the aforesaid city (Oxford) in attempting to save themselves from death, entering this Sanctuary of Christ (St Frideswide’s Church), breaking by force the doors and bolts determined therein that what was a refuge for themselves, should become a fortress against the inhabitants of the city, both those who lived within and without the wall. But when the people in pursuit of them compelled by necessity strove to eject them, and could not, having thrown fire upon the planks [of the roof] they burnt this church, as it seems, together with the ornaments and the books. Afterwards with the help of God, it is now restored by myself, and by my subjects, and as I have before said, having retained all its customs entire by the dignity of charters which for the honour of Christ have been confirmed together with all the territories adjoining, and with every liberty granted both as to royal as well as ecclesiastical dues. But if by chance, it should happen at any time, that any one of unsound mind …’
The translation in James Parker ends here but the Latin continues. This translation by Andrew Dunning continues from James Parker, Early History of Oxford appendix A, No. 29
‘But if by chance it should happen at any time that someone of unsound mind – far be it! – ensnared by carelessness, after he seeks to acquire the reward of this our very gift fraudulently, may the eternal excommunication of death remove him from the Holy Church of God, unless before his death an interrogation is so vexatious as to lead to desirable penance. By these boundaries, the lands delimiting the aforesaid monastery become evident.’
(This ending may sound like a curse, but Andrew Dunning suggests this is a fairly standard close for a charter, indicating that anyone seeking to overthrow its terms should face excommunication.)
The charter ends with a list of names of the signatories.
In confirmation, a record of King Ethelred‘s command to turn on the Danish inhabitants can also be found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1002.
‘In that same year the king commanded killed all the Danish men in England, on St Bricius’ Day, because the king was informed that they meant to beguile him out of his life, and then his counsellors, and so have his kingdom afterwards’. (Anne Savage translation 1982)
Or if you prefer: ‘King Aethelred gave orders for all the Danish people in England to be killed on St Brice’s Day because he had been told that the Danes planned to murder him and his councillors and take over his kingdom.’ (Abridged Version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles by Guy Points 2013)
The Cartulary of St Frideswide goes on to tell us more, in the third charter p9, about what happened to the monastery after the Church was rebuilt in 1004. This translation is taken from James Parker, Early History of Oxford p166.
'Now the aforesaid King Ethelred increased the said church as he had before promised as [is read] in the chronicles. And afterwards before God subjected England to the people of Normandy (1066), this church with its possessions was given by a certain king to a certain abbot of Abingdon : the secular canons are related to have therefore been despoiled of their possessions, and driven from their abode ; and the property being transferred to the monks, was at their disposal for some years.’
‘Afterwards, as it is the case with the affairs of mortals, by the beneficence of a certain king, their property was, after deliberate counsel, restored to the aforesaid canons. And up to the year of our Lord's incarnation 1122, they ruled over the same church.'
Secular Canons were similar to the clergy of today. They were allowed to marry and served the needs of the local population. All clergy were Secular until the introduction of monasteries, such as the Augustinians or Benedictines, which insisted on segregation from the world and the following of rules. These monks were called Regulars. However, James Parker goes on to doubt the dates of this arrangement, even though it is inserted in the Cartulary after the restoration charter of Ethelred.
He says, on p167 of his Early History of Oxford, that the Secular Canons were more likely to have been removed and replaced by Regulars in 964 in the reforms of Abbot Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, under King Eadgar.
He also comments that in 975, on the accession of Edward the Martyr, son of King Eadgar, the Regulars were driven out and replaced by Seculars.
Then he refers to a passage in Leland’s Collectanea which says in '1049… was the institution of the canons of S. Frideswide at Oxford,' though ‘another writer has referred to the Regulars taking the place of the Seculars later still, giving the rather improbable date of 1060’ (as mentioned by Anthony Wood).
He adds, ‘The statement that the monastery was given to "a certain abbot of Abingdon" has led some to suppose that at one time the independence of St Frideswide was at an end, and that it became simply a cell to the larger abbey … on the whole it is not at all probable. The Abingdon Chronicle is so full in recording the events of the period, and the charters so numerous, that it is impossible to conceive any great accession to the power and influence of Abingdon, as this would amount to, without some record showing itself directly or indirectly. As a matter of fact, throughout the seven hundred and forty printed pages of the Abingdon Cartulary, Frideswide is only mentioned twice…’
Though rebuilt, re-founded and re-endowed by King Ethelred in 1004, St Frideswide’s monastery never seemed to prosper. As recorded in the Cartulary and discussed by James Parker in his Early History of Oxford above, Secular Canons (ordained clergy who acted like priests of today, marrying and serving the community) were in residence at one point but these were removed and replaced by Regular Canons (who lived in community and did not marry) possibly from Abingdon Abbey who were installed before the Conquest. Whether the above changes were the cause of the failure of the monastery, or the result of that failure, is open to speculation.
However, the monastery lingered on after 1066. William the Conqueror appointed his friend Robert D’Oilly (or D’Oigly) as the Constable of Oxford and he married the daughter of Wigod, Saxon ruler of Wallingford, who had submitted to William. He improved the castle and town fortifications and made Oxford an important base, but there is no record that he had any influence on, or made changes to, St Frideswide’s monastery. Indeed it went into a decline and was described as ruinous by the early 12th century.