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Droit privé et Institutions régionales

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Société d'histoire du droit et des institutions des pays de l'Ouest de la France

Robert of Belleme and the castle of Tickhill

Marjorie Chibnall

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  • 1 «Blidam quoque, totamque terrain Rogerii de Buthleio, cognati sui, iure repetiit, et a rege grandi (...)

1In a well-known passage describing the growth of Robert of Bellême’s power in England after 1098, Orderic Vitalis relates how he obtained «Blyth and all the land of Roger of Bully» from William Rufus, both by right of kinship and by payment of a very large sum of money1. Up to that time Roger’s remarkable power and influence had been confined to Normandy and France where, as the eldest of Roger of Montgomery’s sons, he had succeeded to both the Montgomery and Bellême lands. After the death of his childless brother Hugh, earl of Shrewsbury, he secured the English part of the great Montgomery inheritance. In view of his energy, wealth, and high favour with William Rufus this is not surprising. But his appearance in the Bully inheritance is more remarkable, and the accuracy of Orderic’s statement cannot be accepted without close scrutiny.

  • 2 Florence of Worcester, Chronicon ex chronicis, ed. B. Thorpe (London, 1848-9), ii. 50: «At rex sin (...)

2One fact is corroborated by the Chronicle of Florence of Worcester: Robert undoubtedly held the castle of Blyth or Tickhill for a time; it was one of the castles from which he was dislodged by Henry I in the campaign of 1102 which ended for ever his brief period of power in England and drove him back across the Channel2. But there is no supporting evidence that he held all Roger of Bully’s lands, and the little that is known of the Bully family makes it difficult to see by what right of kinship he might have claimed them.

  • 3 This was proved conclusively by Lewis Loyd, The Origins of some Anglo-Norman Families (Harleian So (...)
  • 4 Domesday Book (4 vols., Record Commission, 1783-1816), i. 113 a.
  • 5 E.S. Armitage, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London, 1912), pp.219-20.
  • 6 Domesday Book,i. 270 a.

3Roger of Bully came from the region of Neufchâtel-en-Bray3; nothing is known of his antecedents. His wife Muriel belonged to the entourage of William the Conqueror’s queen, Matilda, and may even have been a kinswoman since the queen gave the manor of Sandford in Devon to Roger with his wife on the occasion of his marriage4. That he stood high in the king’s favour is evident from the wealth and extent of the lands he held at the time of the Domesday survey. The Bully honour, centred on Nottinghamshire and south Yorkshire, was worth about £330 annually. Its caput was at Blyth (Notts.), where Roger of Bully founded a priory in 1088. The name Tickhill does not occur in Domesday Book; the site of the castle was in the manor of Dadsley, just two miles from Blyth, across the boundary in Yorkshire. The site is not naturally defensible, but the motte, which is 75 feet high and some 80 feet in diameter at the top was plainly thrown up to command the main Roman road to the north of England5. Besides the honour of Blyth, Roger held a few other estates including Blackburnshire, between Ribble and Mersey, which had been given to him and Albert of Gresley by Roger «the Poitevin», a younger brother of Robert of Bellême6. This is the only positive indication of any connection with the Bellême family, and it does not prove kinship.

  • 7 Marie Fauroux, Recueil des Actes des Ducs de Normandie (911-1066) (Mémoires de la Société des Anti (...)
  • 8 See Lewis Loyd, loc. cit.; John Raine, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Blyth (London, (...)
  • 9 See the article on the counts of Eu in G.E.C., The Complete Peerage (revised edn.), vol.v, 151-6, (...)
  • 10 This suggestion was first made by Joseph Hunter, South Yorkshire (2 vols. London, 1823-31), I. 225 (...)

4Roger was not without close kin. His brother Arnold occurs as witness both to a charter by which he sold the tithe of Bully to La Trinité-du-Mont, Rouen7, and to the foundation charter of Blyth priory8. He had also a sister or a daughter named Beatrice, who married William, count of Eu9. Moreover, he had a son, Roger; and though it has frequently been alleged that Roger II died in 1102, and the hypothesis has been put forward but never proved that he was a minor when his father died10, there is strong evidence that he was seised of some at least of his father's lands in the reign of Henry I and died a good deal later than 1102.

  • 11 See W.E. Wightman, «Henry I and the foundation of Nostell Priory», in Yorkshire Archaelogical and (...)
  • 12 British Museum, MS Cotton Vespasian, E XIX, f.8 (vii). It is sometimes said that Archbishop Thurst (...)

5One piece of contemporary evidence comes from the cartulary of Nostell priory. A charter granted by King Henry I between 1122 and 112711 runs as follows: «Sciatis me concessisse et confirmasse Deo et ecclesie Sancti Oswaldi de Nostell’et Adelwaldo priori et canonibus regularibus eiusdem loci ecclesiam de Tykehill cum omnibus pertinenciis suis in puram et perpetuam elemosinam, quam Rogerus de Bulli predicte ecclesie et predictis priori et canonicis in puram et perpetuam elemosinam coram me per cultellum dedit et concessit12.» This is a clear and concrete affirmation that Roger of Bully had granted seisin of Tickhill church to the canons of Nostell in King Henry’s presence by handing over à knife. The reference cannot be to a gift by the elder Roger of Bully, made in Henry's presence before he became king; although a small group of hermits had been established in the forest of Nostell towards the end of the eleventh century it is inconceivable that a community of this kind should have been the recepient of a church some twenty miles distant, and the Augustinian canons to whom the grant was explicitly made were not established at Nostell until c. 1114.

  • 13 Curia Regis Rolls, 4-5 Henry III, pp.212-3.

6Supporting evidence that the younger Roger had seisin of his father’s lands at some time in the reign of Henry I comes from a series of pleadings of the period 1219-22, when the right to the castle and honour of Tickhill was in dispute between Roger of Vipont on behalf of his wife Idonea and Alice, countess of Eu. Roger of Vipont and Idonea already held six knights'fees which had descended to them from Jordan, the son of Roger of Bully’s brother Arnold. Their claim to the castle and honour was based on the assertion that, «quidam Rogerus antecessor ipsius Idonee fuit seisitus ut de feodo et jure et in dominico tempore Henrici regis senis, scilicet anno et die quo obiit... et de ipso Rogero descendit jus terre illius Jordano cognato suo, scilicet filio avunculi sui, et de Jordano Ricardo filio suo, et de Ricardo Johanni filio suo et patri ipsius Idonee»; also «quod predictus Jordanus fuit filius cujusdam Ernaldi, qui fuit frater Rogeri de Bully patris predicti Rogeri, unde dicit quod, si predictus Rogerus pater obiisset sine heredi de corpore suo, idem Ernaldus esset heres suus, et, quia Rogerus filius obiit sine herede de se, descendit predicto Jordano, eo quod Ernaldus pater suus obiit ante ipsum Rogerum filium13». The Countess of Eu carried the day on the grounds that she was descended directly from Beatrice, daughter of Roger I of Bully and mother of Henry, count of Eu; but the point of chief interest to us is the statement, corroborating the Nostell charter, that Roger II of Bully was seised of his father’s lands in the reign of Henry I, at the time of his death.

  • 14 The wording of the 1222 pleadings implies that Arnold outlived Roger I but died before Roger II. T (...)

7Rules of wardship and inheritance were less clearly formulated in the time of William Rufus than in the age of Bracton, and memories of kinship and assertions of legal right may not have been correct in every detail after a lapse of four generations. Yet it is impossible to deny that Roger I of Bully had a son, and that even if he was a minor when his father died one of his close kin might have claimed the right of wardship. Robert of Bellême, who may have been no more than a distant cousin, was certainly less closely related to Roger of Bully than Henry, count of Eu, and Arnold of Bully, who possibly survived his brother14.

  • 15 Jean Yver, «Les châteaux forts en Normandie jusqu’au milieu du XIIe siècle», in Bulletin de la Soc (...)
  • 16 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv. 20, 47; ed. Chibnall, v.214, 242.
  • 17 J. Yver in Bull. Soc. Ant. Norm.,liii (1955-6), 70-1. It was Robert Curthose who, in 1101, abandon (...)

8One possibility, hitherto not explored, is that William Rufus made a grant to Robert of Bellême not of the honour of Blyth, but of the castle alone of Tickhill, and that he granted it merely as a custody, not as a fee. Professor Yver, in a fundamental study of the castles of Normandy, has clearly shown how the policy of William the Conqueror in Normandy was to keep royal garrisons under royal custodians in the great castles of the duchy, and prevent their infeodation. Robert Curthose, too weak and too lacking in resources to prevent his vassals from achieving their ambitions, granted many of his father’s castles in fee15. While William Rufus never had more than a delegated control in Normandy during the absence of Robert on crusade from 1096-1100, he attempted to revive his father’s policies. He kept a tighter control over the castles of his partisans, and the great fortress of Gisors was built as a ducal castle. And in England neither he nor his younger brother Henry conceded hereditary castellanships, much less private castles, without some attempt at control. Tickhill was newly built by Roger of Bully: by not granting it to his son, whatever the descent of the lands may have been, William Rufus would have struck a blow against the growth of hereditary right. If Robert of Bellême’s great power and wealth might seem to make him an unreliable agent, it must be remembered that Rufus had put him in charge of his campaigns in the Vexin and in Maine16, and, knowing his engineering talents, had specially entrusted him with the construction of the key castle of Gisors in 1097, without surrendering control of Gisors17. We do not know the conditions under which Robert received Tickhill castle, and William Rufus died too soon for his intentions to be made plain.

  • 18 Florence of Worcester, II. 50; Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv. 169-76.
  • 19 Robert of Bellême had recently built the strong castle of Bridgnorth, commanding the crossing of t (...)
  • 20 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv, 175, «Deinde rex, quia stipendiarii fidem principi suo servabant, ut (...)
  • 21 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv, 171, «Cui mox gaudentes oppidani obviam processerunt, ipsumque natura (...)

9Henry I had other plans. He was determined to break Robert of Bellême, and the trial of strengh came with Robert’s rebellion in 1102. The campaigns in which Henry captured Robert’s castles in rapid succession are described briefly in Florence of Worcester’s Chronicle, and with full and at times very significant detail by Orderic18. Robert himself retired to defend Shrewsbury, leaving garrisons to defend Arundel, Bridgnorth, Tickhill and the other castles he held. Arundel and Bridgnorth19, both castles in the Mont-gomery lands, withstood short sieges, and before the commanders of the garrisons finally surrendered to the king they sought permission to do so from their lord, Robert of Bellême. The position at Bridgnorth was complicated by the presence of some stipendiary troops, who insisted that to surrender would tarnish their honour; when the royal troops were finally admitted by the castellans with Robert’s consent, King Henry spared the lives of the stipendiaries because in resisting they had merely done their duty to their master20. At Tickhill it was a very different story. The royal troops approached after the surrender of Arundel, before Bridgnorth had even been invested, and when the situation was still far from hopeless; the garrison of Tickhill put up no resistance at all, and did not even apply to Robert of Bellême for permission to surrender. Instead, if Orderic is to be believed, they welcomed the king as their liege lord and opened their gates to him21. Orderic’s account is probably exaggerated, since Florence of Worcester, who wrote nearer to the scene of action, says that the bishop of Lincoln was put in charge of the army sent to Tickhill. But Florence likewise gives no hint of any resistance by the garrison, and Orderic may be mistaken only in saying that the men surrendered to the king instead of to the king’s representative. Their action, showing so much less loyalty to Robert of Bellême than was regarded as proper even in the stipendiary troops at Bridgnorth, could be explained if Robert was merely castellan of Tickhill, in charge of a royal garrison.

  • 22 Pipe Roll, 31 Henry I, pp. 9, 33, 34, 36.

10Nothing in the contemporary record evidence contradicts such an interpretation of the chronicles. The Nostell charter proves that Roger II of Bully had seisin of the church of Tickhill some years later; he may have held the lands of the honour from the time of his father’s death. A claim made in a law-suit over a hundred years later, when hereditary rights to castles were much more firmly established, cannot be taken as proof of conditions in the reign of William Rufus. Entries in the Pipe Roll of 1130 prove that by that date both honour and castle of Blyth/Tickhill were in the king’s hands22, and Roger II of Bully was presumably dead by that date: he may never have held the castle, for Henry was keenly aware of its strategic importance and is likely to have kept it in his own hands after Robert of Bellême’s fall in 1102.

11Orderic’s account cannot be correct in every particular, for if Robert of Bellême had had any hereditary right to the castle and honour of Tickhill, then in 1102 the garrison would have been bound by the same feudal conventions as the garrisons of Arundel and Bridgnorth, and Orderic’s own account is the clearest indication that they were not. The most probable interpretation of all the evidence is that Roger II of Bully succeeded to his father’s lands, either immediately or on attaining his majority, and that Robert of Bellême secured the custody of the castle only as a representative of the king. Such an interpretation has the added interest of showing in yet another case how, in England no less than in Normandy, the abler sons of William the Conqueror made direct control of castles one of the practical bases of their authority.

Notes

1 «Blidam quoque, totamque terrain Rogerii de Buthleio, cognati sui, iure repetiit, et a rege grandi pondéré argenti comparavit.» (Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, éd. A. Le Prévost, (Société de l’Histoire de France, 5 vols, 1838-55), iv. 33; ed. M. Chibnall (Oxford Medieval Texts, vols, ii-v, 1969-75), v. 224-6).

2 Florence of Worcester, Chronicon ex chronicis, ed. B. Thorpe (London, 1848-9), ii. 50: «At rex sine dilatione castellum ejus Arundel primitus obsedit... Deinde Rotbertum, Lindicolinae civitatis episcopum, cum parte exercitus Tyckyll obsidere jussit».

3 This was proved conclusively by Lewis Loyd, The Origins of some Anglo-Norman Families (Harleian Society, vol.ciii, 1951), p.21.

4 Domesday Book (4 vols., Record Commission, 1783-1816), i. 113 a.

5 E.S. Armitage, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London, 1912), pp.219-20.

6 Domesday Book,i. 270 a.

7 Marie Fauroux, Recueil des Actes des Ducs de Normandie (911-1066) (Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie,xxxvi, 1961), no 200, dates the charter between 1051 and 1066, but probably nearer to the later limit. It can scarcely be doubted that «Hernaldus cujus erat pars decime» was Roger’s brother Arnold.

8 See Lewis Loyd, loc. cit.; John Raine, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Blyth (London, 1860), pp.29-30.

9 See the article on the counts of Eu in G.E.C., The Complete Peerage (revised edn.), vol.v, 151-6, where she is described as Roger’s sister. There is however some evidence that she was his daughter (R. Holmes, The Chartulary of St. John of Pontefract (ii) (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Record Series, vol.xxx, 1901), p.609.

10 This suggestion was first made by Joseph Hunter, South Yorkshire (2 vols. London, 1823-31), I. 225, and A.S. Ellis in Yorkshire Archaelogical und Topographical Journal,iv (1877), 142-4; and many later writers have copied the statement uncritically.

11 See W.E. Wightman, «Henry I and the foundation of Nostell Priory», in Yorkshire Archaelogical and Topographical Journal, XLI (1963), 57-60, for the date of the charter and early history of the priory.

12 British Museum, MS Cotton Vespasian, E XIX, f.8 (vii). It is sometimes said that Archbishop Thurstan gave the church; but his charter (ibid., f. 164) shows that he merely gave ecclesiastical confirmation of Henry I’s previous grant, in the words, «de dono regis... ecclesiam de Tickhill cum capella sua de Stanton».

13 Curia Regis Rolls, 4-5 Henry III, pp.212-3.

14 The wording of the 1222 pleadings implies that Arnold outlived Roger I but died before Roger II. There is no evidence that Henry, count of Eu, was under a cloud because of the implication of his family in the 1095 rebellion, though this is possible.

15 Jean Yver, «Les châteaux forts en Normandie jusqu’au milieu du XIIe siècle», in Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie,liii (1955-6), 28-115.

16 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv. 20, 47; ed. Chibnall, v.214, 242.

17 J. Yver in Bull. Soc. Ant. Norm.,liii (1955-6), 70-1. It was Robert Curthose who, in 1101, abandonned Gisors to the hereditary control of the local family of Theobald Pain of Neaufle and Gisors.

18 Florence of Worcester, II. 50; Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv. 169-76.

19 Robert of Bellême had recently built the strong castle of Bridgnorth, commanding the crossing of the Severn, after moving there the inhabitants of his father’s castle at Quatford. See J.F.A. Mason, «The Norman castle at Quatford» in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society,lvii (19614), 37-46.

20 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv, 175, «Deinde rex, quia stipendiarii fidem principi suo servabant, ut decuit, eis liberum cum equis et armis exitum annuit».

21 Orderic, ed. Le Prévost, iv, 171, «Cui mox gaudentes oppidani obviam processerunt, ipsumque naturalem dominum fatentes, cum gaudio susceperunt».

22 Pipe Roll, 31 Henry I, pp. 9, 33, 34, 36.

© Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 1976

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