Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Margaret de Cormeilles and a miscarriage of justice

Margaret de Cormeilles and a miscarriage of justice

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In May 1236 Alice and Isabella Cormeilles had recently buried their mother, Margaret de Cormeilles. Now a jury of twelve men in Gloucestershire denied ever knowing Margaret de Cormeilles and that she held any land in Gloucestershire directly from the king. Yet a separate jury in Herefordshire knew that Margaret de Cormeilles held two knight’s fees and that one of these was in Gloucestershire and they even knew the man who held it. Were the two daughters of Margaret the victims of twelve angry men or was something else afoot?

Can we, eight hundred years later, correct a miscarriage of justice or will some other twist turn the story? So, who was Margaret de Cormeilles and can we put a biography to the name? Her surname of Cormeilles comes from the town of Cormeilles (also written as Cormaill) in the Eure Department of France.

Her father was Walter de Cormeilles of Taddington, Herefordshire. Walter de Cormeilles died before 13th August 1204 and after which Peter de Stokes obtained custody of his lands. These lands were at Taddington, Bullingham, Clehonger, and Aston in Herefordshire and at Weston-sub-Edge in Gloucstershire.[1] His daughter Margaret de Cormeilles married twice. Her first husband was Walter de Stokes by whom she had two daughters, Alice and Isabella. After Walter de Stokes died, Margaret remarried and her second husband was Hugh le Poer.

Inquisitions Post Mortem for Margaret

Margaret de Cormeilles died sometime before mid-May 1236 and as was the practice at that time the government order an inquisition to be made as to what lands Margaret held and more importantly was there any taxes or potential income due to the crown. On 16th May 1236 a writ for an inquisition post mortem was sent to the sheriff of Herefordshire to enquire into the estate of the late Margaret de Cormeilles. A jury of twelve men led by Sir Robert de Stapleton met at an undisclosed location and at an unknown date where they found that Margaret had a half knights fee in Tatinton and in Bolingehop in Olehungre, wherein she had three carucates of land in demesne, paying an annual rent of 100 shillings and worth £13 per year with the said rent. All these lands were held in chief of the King.

The jury also said that Margaret had a further two knights fees. One of these was in the vill of Eston in Herefordshire and was held by Roger de Eston. The other fee was attached to the vills of Begesoure and Hennemere in Gloucestershire. This fee was held by James de Solers.

The jury then found that Margaret had two married daughters, Alice and Isabella who were her heirs. Alice, the elder daughter, had married Robert le Archer while Isabella had married Simon de Solers.[2]  

Having concluded their work the jury began to make their way home while the heirs were happy with a good result in their favour. But questions of land title remained unresolved. On the following day, 17th May 1236, another writ was sent to the sheriff of Gloucestershire to enquire if Margaret de Cormeilles held any land in Gloucestershire in chief of the King.

It would seem that the Cormeilles family gave the impression of holding land in Gloucestershire or the possession of a knight’s fee there suggested possible land ownership. The jury of twelve met on an unknown date where they found that “They have not known or heard of any Margaret de Cormeilles holding any land of the King in chief” in Gloucestershire. Instead they said that Albreda de Marmium held certain lands in the county of the King as her dower lands. By 1236 these lands had passed to Henry de Penebregg who held them from Hugh Giffard who held of the King.[3] A later inquisition in 1279 identifies these Gloucestershire lands as situated at Weston. In that year Henry, son of Henry de Penebregg held the lands from Walter Giffard, Archbishop of York.[4]

The daughters and heirs of Margaret de Cormeilles lost little time in entering their inheritance. By 30th May 1236 Robert le Archer and Simon de Solers had given homage to King Henry III for Margaret’s lands in Herefordshire. They were to pay £25 for entry and the sheriff of Herefordshire was directed on the 30th to take security for the entry fine. By the king’s letter we are told that lands of Margaret de Cormeilles comprised a fourth part of the Barony of Cormeilles.

Included in the letter to the Sheriff of Herefordshire was an order directing him to inform the sheriff of Gloucestershire when he had taken security for the fine. But the inquisition held in Gloucestershire arrived at court before the letter to Herefordshire was sent. When the clerk noticed that Margaret de Cormeilles had no land in Gloucestershire the included order to the sheriff of Herefordshire was crossed out.[5]

Margaret’s lands in Gloucestershire explained?

By all accounts the daughters of Margaret de Cormeilles and their husbands settled into their Herefordshire lands without too much difficulty. About three years later some explanation for the supposed Gloucestershire lands of Margaret de Cormeilles began to appear. On 9th September 1239 Henry III informed the sheriff of Herefordshire that he had taken the homage of Hugh Giffard and his wife Sibyl for the lands and tenements lately held by Alice of Crowcombe (lately deceased) along with the homage of the other heirs of Alice. This Hugh Giffard was possibly the same man who held Weston-sub-Edge in Gloucestershire in 1236 while his wife, Sibyl, was a sister and co-heiress of Alice of Crowcombe.

The other heirs of Alice of Crowcombe who gave homage to the king for her lands in Herefordshire included her nephew, John le Brun; her third heir and niece, Alice de Cormeilles (through her husband Robert le Archer), and her fourth heir and niece, Isabella de Cormeilles (through her husband Simon de Solers).[6]

The document of 1239 thus showed that Hugh Giffard had married a sister of Margaret de Cormeilles. Therefore the idea of Margaret de Cormeilles having land in Gloucestershire, where Hugh Giffard had land, may have had some basis in fact. Whatever the situation surrounding these Gloucestershire lands was, they must have changed long before 1236 to make jury totally ignorant of any attachment to Margaret de Cormeilles.

No inquisition post mortem seems to have survived for Alice of Crowcombe to enlighten us as to her estate. To add further mystery no mention is made of any lands in Somersetshire in which county is the place called Crowcombe. We equally have little knowledge of Alice’s family. She had no living children but she had a husband at some time as she is called Alice of Crowcombe and not Alice de Cormeilles, which is what she would have been called if she was unmarried.

Do we know the husband of Alice de Cormeilles? One candidate for that role is Geoffrey of Crowcombe. Geoffrey of Crowcombe was an active person in the early years of the reign of Henry III. In the winter and spring of 1224-1225 Geoffrey of Crowcombe was proctor at Rome for Henry III along with Stephen Lucy. The Pope, Honorius III, met the proctors and told them that Henry III must be more impartial and forbearing towards his subjects.[7] In May 1225 Geoffrey of Crowcombe was sent to France as an ambassador for Henry III. In 1229-30 he was assessor and collector of the tallage in Norfolk and Suffolk. About April 1230 Geoffrey was made sheriff of Oxfordshire. From October 1232 to March 1234 Geoffrey of Crowcombe was issuing royal writs on behalf of the king. In June 1234 Geoffrey was given custody of the royal manor of Woodstock (now Blenheim Palace) while continuing to hold the royal castle at Oxford.[8]

But was Geoffrey of Crowcumbe the husband of Alice of Crowcombe? One of the earliest documents concerning Geoffrey of Crowcombe gives him connections to Gloucestershire. In June 1220 the sheriff of Gloucestershire was order to give respite to Geoffrey of Crowcombe for a demand of money because Geoffrey was in Poitou on the king’s service.[9] An entry in the fine rolls for September 1226 tells us of an order to the sheriff of Gloucestershire to place in respite the demand of 20 marks from Geoffrey of Crowcombe for the land of John, son and heir of Richard Brown, who was in the custody of Geoffrey.[10] Earlier we saw that a person called John le Brun (Brown) was a nephew of Alice of Crowcombe.

To confirm the connection we have a letter to the sheriff of Herefordshire in August 1221. The sheriff was order to give respite to Geoffrey of Crowcombe for the scutages of Ireland, Poitou, Scotland and Wales which were payable on the half knight’s fee formerly held by Walter de Cormeilles in the time of King John. A similar letter was sent to the sheriff of Gloucestershire.[11]

[See a related article about Geoffrey of Crowcombe and his associations with Ireland = article link]

Another Gloucestershire explanation

Having come to no certain conclusion about any Gloucestershire lands of Margaret de Cormeilles through Alice of Crowcombe we must search elsewhere. Working further of the biography of Margaret we find that Aubrey Marmion was the mother of Margaret de Cormeilles.[12] The jury of the Gloucestershire inquisition reported that Albreda (Aubrey) de Marmion had held lands in dower from the king in that county.[13] The Gloucestershire connection is now more fully understood. When Aubrey Marmion died her lands in Gloucestershire were inherited by her daughter Sibyl who married Hugh Giffard. As was the practice when an estate had only female heirs the property was divided among the heiress in equal portions. Thus Sibyl got Weston-sub-Edge and other Gloucestershire property as her portion.

St. Lawrence (ex St. John the Baptist) Church, Weston-sub-Edge 
from 123rf.com by Andrew Roland

Margaret de Cormeilles mother, Aubrey Marmion was the daughter and heiress of Geoffrey Marmion of Arrow, Warwickshire. After the death of Walter de Cormeilles in 1204, Aubrey married William de Camville (died after 1205) by whom she had Geoffrey de Camville (died c.1219).[14]

Ancient inheritance

The Cormeilles lands in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire mentioned in the above transactions and inquisitions were part of the ancient inheritance of the family. Ansfrid de Cormeilles was the first to leave northern France and come over to England at the Norman Conquest. By 1086 he had seven lordships in Herefordshire and sixteen in Gloucestershire.[15]

In 1086 Ansfrid de Cormeilles is listed as owner of the manors of Weston-sub-Edge, Norton, Batsford, Winstone, Shipton (part of), Tantesborne, Pauntley, Kilcot, Ketford, Hayes by Newent, and Duntisbourne (part of) in Gloucestershire. He was a tenant of the king at Beckford and Ashton under Hill.[16] In all Ansfrid de Cormeilles held about 10,700 acres or just over 46 hides of lands, making him one of the top ten lay-landowners in Gloucestershire.[17]

Ansfrid de Cormeilles acquired his Gloucestershire lands from a number of sources. Through his wife, a niece of Walter de Lacy (sometimes written as Roger de Lacy), he acquired Winstone, Duntesbourne, Pauntley, Ketford and other places near Newent by grant of Walter de Lacy. From his chief lord, Earl William Fitz Osbern, Ansfrid de Cormeilles received the manors of Beckford and Ashton-under-Hill. It would appear that Ansfrid de Cormeilles and Earl William Fitz Osbern knew each other from their days in Normandy. Earl William founded the Abbey of Cormeilles and endowed it with extensive lands and churches in Gloucestershire. Some of these churches were on land held by Ansfrid de Cormeilles.[18]

Charles Taylor records that Margaret de Cormeilles, daughter of Walter de Cormeilles, held the manor of Postlip, while her sister, Aubrey de Cormeilles (mother of John le Brun), held Cotes.[19]

Ansfrid de Cormeilles (died c.1100) was succeeded by his son, Alexander de Cormeilles, Lord of Tarrington. Alexander married a de Monmouth woman and had at least three sons, Richard, Robert and Alexander. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard de Cormeilles. Richrad de Cormeilles (died c.1177) was succeeded by his son Walter de Cormeilles.[20]  

Thus the Margaret de Cormeilles of this article was a great, great granddaughter of Ansfrid de Cormeilles of the Domesday Survey. She held a part of Colesborne, Gloucestershire, in which there was a wood called Power’s Wood, named for her second husband, Hugh le Poer.[21]

Some post 1236 information

The two daughters of Margaret de Cormeilles settled down to life in Herefordshire after their uncle-in-law took the Gloucestershire lands of the Cormeilles family. Sometime around 1259-60 Simon de Solers, husband of Isabella de Cormeilles, died. At that time he held two carucates of land at Tadington (Tarrington) and Bulinghope (Bullingham) in Herefordshire. Simon de Solers was succeeded by his son Thomas de Solers who was over twenty-one years in 1260.[22] 

Later in 1261 Alice de Cormeilles died and was succeeded by her son, Colin le Archer, who was aged about twenty-three years. Alice de Cormeilles held two carucates of land at Tarrington, Bullingham and Clehungre. She also jointly held with her younger sister, Isabella, the two knights fees attached to Hope Solers and Astun. These fees and tenements were jointly held by the sisters as a third part of the service pertaining to the Barony of Cormeilles.[23] Colin le Archer was later succeeded by Nicholas le Archer who in turn was succeeded in 1280 by his son, Nicholas le Archer.[24] By 1289 the manor of Tarrington and the one third of a knight’s fee in the Barony of Cormeilles was held of the king by Baldwin de Frevill but his connection with the Archer family is unstated.[25]

If Margaret’s daughters failed to get into Gloucestershire in 1236 there appears to have been little obstacle in the Giffard family moving into Herefordshire. On the death of Walter Giffard, Archbishop of York, in 1279 we find that he held among other places, including Weston-sub-Edge in Gloucestershire, one carucate of land in Tarrington, a third of a carucate in Bullingham along with assize rent at Clehungre and Bullingham, and that these lands were held of the king in chief.[26]

Justice done with cautious reading of medieval documents

At the start of this article we read an inquisition post mortem which seemed to deny the daughters of Margaret de Cormeilles from getting their rightful lands in Gloucestershire. We were beginning to cry foul and report a miscarriage of justice. But like in a present-day court room the jurors answered the question on the writ, i.e. “how much land Margaret de Cormeilles held of the king in chief in Gloucestershire”. But they just answered the question and not the whole truth. They mentioned Aubrey Marmion holding the land in dower and in 1236 it was held by Hugh Giffard but gave no hint in any shape or form that Aubrey was the mother of Margaret de Cormeilles and that Hugh was her brother-in-law.

As Philomena Connolly once wrote “The information given in the record sources [usually government documents] can be incomplete in several ways. First, we are obviously only given one side of the story that of the government and the information is usually the minimum needed for administration purposes”.[27] The Gloucestershire jurors did just that – gave the “minimum needed for [the] administration purpose”.

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[2] Sidney J. Madge (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire in the Plantagenet Period, part IV, 1236-1300 (British Record Society, London, 1903), pp. 1, 2; J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem preserved in the Public Record Office (Kraus reprint, 1973), Vol. 1, Henry III, No. 5
[3] Sidney J. Madge (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part IV, 1236-1300, p. 2; J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Vol. 1, Henry III, No. 5
[4] Sidney J. Madge (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part IV, 1236-1300, p. 108
[5] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of the Reign of Henry III (3 vols. Boydell Press & National Archives, 2009), Vol. III (1234-1242), Nos. 20/308-309
[6] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of Henry III, Vol. III (1234-1242), No. 23/334
[7] Rev. Walter W. Shirley (ed.), Royal and other historical letters illustrative of the Reign of Henry III (2 vols. Longman Green, London, 1862), nos. ccix, ccxv, p. 540
[8] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of the Reign of Henry III (3 vols. Boydell Press & National Archives, 2008), Vol. II (1224-1234), Nos. 9/207, 14/88-89, 260, 16/307, 18/167
[9] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of the Reign of Henry III (3 vols. Boydell Press & National Archives, 2007), Vol. 1 (1216-1224), No. 5/123
[10] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of Henry III, Vol. II (1224-1234), Nos. 10/282
[11] Paul Dryburgh & Beth Hartland (eds.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of Henry III, Vol. 1 (1216-1224), Nos. 5/267-268
[13] Sidney J. Madge (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part IV, 1236-1300, p. 2
[16] Charles S. Taylor, An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire (Bristol, 1889), pp. 232-3, 236, 241, 264, 268, 272, 280, 284, 316
[17] Charles S. Taylor, An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire (Bristol, 1889), pp. 99, 222
[18] Charles S. Taylor, An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire, pp. 13, 21, 174, 201, 241
[19] Charles S. Taylor, An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire, p. 141
[21] Charles S. Taylor, An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire, p. 157
[22] J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Vol. 1, Henry III, No. 433
[23] J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Vol. 1, Henry III, No. 484
[24] J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem preserved in the Public Record Office (Kraus reprint, 1973), Vol. 2, Edward 1, No. 346
[25] J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem preserved in the Public Record Office (Kraus reprint, 1973), Vol. 2, Edward 1, No. 709
[26] J.E.E.S Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem preserved in the Public Record Office (Kraus reprint, 1973), Vol. 2, Edward 1, No. 314
[27] Philomena Connolly, Medieval Record Sources (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2002), p. 69

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