Document of the Month, April 2016: A new ruling class

By Katharine Schofield, Archivist

Deeds, c.1140-1144 (D/DBa T2/1, 3)

2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (which we are marking with a conference on 1 October – find out more on our events pages).

The two documents we have chosen to highlight this month date from nearly 80 years after the Norman Conquest, and they show how securely the Norman ruling elite had established themselves in England.

The success of the Norman Conquest produced a dramatic change in land ownership as William the Conqueror rewarded his supporters with English land, displacing the 1066 landowners.  In 1086 Domesday Book illustrated the process of land redistribution in each county, listing the manors held by each of the king’s tenants-in-chief.  These two deeds were issued by Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, a grandson of two of the Essex tenants-in-chief.  They date from the early 1140s, and record grants of land to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun, ancestors of the Barrington family of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak.

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun.  (D/DBa T2/1)

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun. (D/DBa T2/1)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

Geoffrey was the grandson of two of the Domesday tenants-in-chief, Geoffrey de Mandeville (or Magna Villa) and Eudo Dapifer (dapifer is the Latin word for steward), and Eudo served as steward to William the Conqueror and his sons William II and Henry I.  Eudo was sometimes described as Eudo son of Hubert [de Rie/Ryes].  Hubert had been a prominent supporter of the Conqueror in Normandy and Eudo’s brothers William, Ralph, Hubert and Adam also benefited from the Conquest.  Ralph became constable of Nottingham Castle and Hubert constable of Norwich Castle and all four held land in England.

Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the richest of the king’s barons, was rewarded with extensive lands, mostly in Essex, but also in ten other counties, as well as being appointed constable of the Tower of London.

Eudo Dapifer also held lands in Essex and nine other counties. He was responsible for the building of Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in England, becoming its first constable. In 1096/7 he founded St. John’s Abbey in the town and was buried there in 1120.

Although both deeds relate to land in Essex and are dated 80 years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey de Mandeville begins by greeting all his men French and English in the first deed (om[n]ib[us] hominib[us] suis franc[ie] et anglic[e]) and all his Barons and clerks and lay men French and English in the second (Om[n]ib[us] Baronib[us] et hominib[us] suis clericis et Laicis franc[ie] et angl[ice]).

The Geoffrey de Mandeville named in these documents (the grandson of the first Geoffrey and Eudo Dapifer) founded Walden Abbey (which after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s became what is today Audley End), and built the castle at Saffron Walden.  He was prominent in the civil war in King Stephen’s reign when a contemporary chronicler wrote that ‘men said openly that Christ and his saints slept’.  As a reward for his support for King Stephen he was made Earl of Essex.

After Stephen’s capture in 1141 Geoffrey changed sides to support Stephen’s cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and she appointed him constable of the Tower, forgave him debts owed to the Crown, granted him lands in Normandy and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London.  He died in 1144 from an arrow wound while in rebellion against the king.

The documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2016.

 

 

 

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