Monday, September 14, 2009

Joanna, Countess of Hereford: short genealogy, no descendants

Copyright 2009 by Christy K Robinson

Joanna de Kilpeck de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, was not my ancestor. She’s the ancestor of no one, having died without issue. But she has a beautiful tomb effigy in the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral, so I have decided to resurrect her in 2009. Joanna would have known Hereford Cathedral as the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Ethelbert the King.

Her father, Alan Plukenet, died in 1299 after a career as a knight and baron who fought for King Henry III at Evesham. On his lands at Kilpeck, a village and castle (painting of castle here) with a Romanesque church, Alan drained wetlands and created the parish of Allensmore. Alan was a benefactor of Abbey Dore, and was interred there.

His son and heir, also Alan Plukenet, was summoned to Parliament. Edward I granted the second Alan a charter to hold a market in Kilpeck, about 8 miles from Hereford. When Alan died in about 1315, his heir was his sister Joanna. She did homage to King Edward II and had livery of Kilpeck and the Plukenet/Plunkett holdings in the 19th year of Edward II, or 1326.

Several sources say that Joanna was the wife of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. Another, www.herefordwebpages.co.uk, says that she was married to William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton. The source of the family list below Wikipedia cites Edward de Bohun marrying “Joan Plokenet,” but he wasn’t the Earl of Hereford.

[BREAKING NEWS--Be sure to read Terry's comments below this article for his research (and corrections) for the Plunkett family.] The purpose of this article is to discuss Joanna's tomb at Hereford Cathedral, not to trace her family genealogy.

There are far too many Humphrey de Bohuns for comfort, so here is a family list with all the Humphreys in bold (with my ancestors Eleanor and Agnes in red). The father, Humphrey VIII (1276-1322), was Earl of Essex and Hereford. Children of Humphrey de Bohun VIII and Elizabeth of Rhuddlan (daughter of Edward I) were as follows:
.....i. Edmund de Bohun.
.....ii. Hugh de Bohun; born circa 1303; died 1305.
.....iii. Humphrey de Bohun; born 1304; died in infancy 10 Sep 1304.
.....iv. Margaret de Bohun; born before 1 Feb 1304 Tynemouth, Northumberland; died 1311.
.....v. Alianore/Eleanor de Bohun; born 17 Oct 1304; married John de Bromwich; married Sir James le Boteler Earl of Ormond, son of Edmund le Boteler Earl of Carrick (styled) and Joan FitzGerald, 1327, Alianore and James were parents of my ancestor James II Earl of Ormond (Ireland); married Thomas de Dagworth, Lord Dagworth, son of John de Dagworth and Alice FitzWarin, before 20 Apr 1344; died 7 Oct 1363 at age 58. (James II, Earl of Ormond, eventually was granted Kilpeck Castle in Herefordshire!)
.....vi. Mary de Bohun, twin of Humphrey; born 1305; died in infancy 1305.
.....vii. Humphrey de Bohun; born 20 Oct 1305 Pleshy Castle, Essex; died 1310. Age 5 at death.
.....viii. John de Bohun Earl of Hereford & Essex; born 23 Nov 1306 St. Clements, Oxfordshire; married Margaret Basset, daughter of Sir Ralph Basset V Lord Basset of Drayton and Hawise (Basset), after 1308; married Alice Fitzalan, daughter of Sir Edmund Fitzalan Earl of Arundel and Alice de Warenne, 8 Mar 1325; died 20 Jan 1335 Kirkby-Thore, Westmorland, at age 28; buried after 20 Jan 1335 Stratford Abbey, London. He was also known as John de Bohun.
.....ix. Edward de Bohun; born 1307 of England.
.....x. Humphrey de Bohun IX Earl of Hereford; born 6 Dec 1309 at Caldecot, Northampton; died 15 Oct 1361 at age 51. He was buried at Walden Abbey in Essex.
.....xi. Margaret de Bohun; born 3 Apr 1311 of Caldecot, Northamptonshire; married Sir Hugh de Courtenay III Earl of Devon, son of Sir Hugh de Courtenay II Earl of Devon and Agnes de St. John, 11 Aug 1325; died 16 Dec 1391 Exeter, Devonshire, England, at age 80. Buried in Exeter Cathedral with lovely effigies—I have a photo.
.....xii. Edward de Bohun; born 1312 of Caldecot, Northampton; married Joan Plokenet??; married Margaret de Ros; died 1334. If Edward married Joanna Plukenet, he’d have died three years before her and could not have married Margaret. Furthermore, he was not the Earl of Hereford, but Joanna was the Countess of Hereford. It can’t be Edward!
.....xiii. Sir William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton.
.....xiv. Aeneas (Agnes) de Bohun; born 1314 of Caldecot, Northampton, England; married (at age 10) as his first wife, Sir Robert de Ferrers 2nd Baron Ferrers of Wemme, son of Sir John de Ferrers Lord Ferrers of Chartley and Hawyse de Muscegros; died 1343 of childbirth. Robert de Ferrers was born on 25 Mar 1309 in Chartley, Staffordshire, England. He died on 28 Aug 1350/1351. He married Aeneas/Agnes de Bohun on 21 Nov 1324 in Caldecot, Northamptonshire, England.
.....xv. Isabel, born 1316, died. Her mother Elizabeth died shortly after childbirth, and they were buried together in Westminster Abbey.

So Humphrey VIII, out of his 15 children, named three of them Humphrey, hoping his heir would carry on the family tradition of Humphrey de Bohun names. The first child died in infancy; the second at age 5, and finally, the Humphrey who stuck around to inherit the titles died at age 51. However, I can find no wife or children for Humphrey IX and I know that Joanna de Kilpeck died without issue, so I will assume that Humphrey IX and Joanna were the pair. When Joanna died in 1337, she was the Countess of Hereford. The references to Joanna in Hereford Cathedral say that she was the wife of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. So that’s what we’ll go with.

Wikipedia says that
“Humphrey de Bohun, 6th Earl of Hereford, 5th Earl of Essex (6 December 1309 – 15 October 1361) was a Lord High Constable of England. He was born to Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford and Elizabeth Plantagenet and [he was] a younger brother of John de Bohun, 5th Earl of Hereford. He succeeded his elder brother as Earl of Hereford and Essex upon his death on 20 January 1336. He also succeeded John as the Lord High Constable of England, the seventh highest office of the State. [NO MENTION OF HIS WIFE BECAUSE HE HAD NO CHILDREN?] After his death in Pleshey, Essex he was buried in Friars Augustine, London. The Earldoms of Hereford and Essex were passed to his nephew, Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford, the son of his younger brother William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, who predeceased him.”

What I can find of Joanna is only about her bequest and her remains—nothing of her life. She must have been born before 1299 when her father died. She made her last charter in October 1337, and died late that year. She may have had cancer or heart disease, because she seemed to know that she was not long for the world. She made gifts shortly before she died.

One reference says:

In the easternmost bay on this side is the tomb of Joanna de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, 1327. To quote from Dean Merewether: " The effigy of the lady, there can be scarcely a doubt, represents ' Johanna de Bohun, Domina de Kilpec.' She was the sister and heiress of Alan Plonknett or Plugenet of Kilpec, in the county of Hereford, a name distinguished in the annals of his times; and of his possessions, his sister doing her homage, had livery 19 Edward II. [1326]
"In 1327 Johanna de Bohun gave to the Dean and Chapter of Hereford, the church of Lugwardyne, with the chapels of Llangarren, St. Waynards and Henthland, with all the small chapels belonging to them, which donation was confirmed by the king by the procurement and diligence of Thomas de Chandos, Archdeacon of Hereford; and the Bishop of Hereford further confirmed it to the Dean and Chapter by deed, dated Lugwas, 22nd July, 1331 (ex Regist. MS. Thomae Chorleton, Epi.): And afterwards the Bishop, Dean and Chapter appropriated the revenues of it to the service peculiar to the Virgin Mary, ' because in other churches in England the Mother of God had better and more serious service, but in the Church of Hereford the Ladye's sustenance for her prieste was so thinne and small, that out of their respect they .add this, by their deeds, dated in the Chapter at Hereford, April toth, 1333.' (Harl. MS. 6726, fol. 109.)
" Johanna de Bohoun died without issue, 1 Edward III., 1337, the donation of Lugwardyne being perhaps her dying bequest. On the 17th of October in that year, she constituted form de Badesshawe, her attorney, to give possession to the Dean and Chapter of an acre of land in Lugwardine, and the advowson of the church with the chapels pertaining to it. This instrument was dated at Bisseleye, and her seal was appended, of which a sketch is preserved by Taylor, in whose possession this document appears to have been in 1655, and a transcript of it will be found Harl. MS. 6868, f. 77 (see also 6726, f. 109, which last has been printed in Shaw's Topographer, 1. 280).
"In the tower is preserved the patent 1 Edward III, pro Ecclesia de Lug-warden cum capellis donandis a Johanna de Bohun ad inveniendum 8 capellanos et 2 diaconos appropri- anda (Tanner's Notitia Monast.').
"The circumstances above mentioned appear sufficiently to explain why the memorial of Johanna de Bohoun is found in the Lady Chapel, to which especially she had been a benefactress. They also explain the original ornaments of this tomb, the painting which was to be seen not many years since under the arch in which the effigy lies, now unfortunately concealed by a coat of plaster, of which sufficient has been removed to prove that Gough's description of the original state of the painting is correct. He says, 'The Virgin is represented sitting, crowned with a nimbus; a lady habited in a mantle and wimple kneeling on an embroidered cushion offers to her a church built in the form of a cross, with a central spire—and behind the lady kneel eleven or twelve religious, chanting a gorge deployee after the foremost, who holds up a book, on which are seen musical notes and "salve sea parens.' Fleur-de-lys are painted about both within and without this arch, and on the spandrils two shields; on the left, a bend cotised between twelve Lioncels (Bohun); and on the right, Ermines, a bend indented, Gules.' This description was published 1786.
"By this painting there can be no doubt that the donation of the church of Lugwardine was represented, the eleven or twelve vociferous choristers were the eight chaplains and two deacons mentioned in the patent, who were set apart for the peculiar service of the Lady Chapel, and provided for from the pious bequest of Johanna de Bohoun. The two shields mentioned by Gough are still discernible, that on the dexter side bearing the arms of Bohun, Azure a bend, Argent between two cotises, and six lions rampant, or. —The other, Ermines, a bend indented, (or fusily) Gules, which were the bearings of Plugenet, derived perhaps originally from the earlier Barons of Kilpec, and still borne by the family of Pye in Herefordshire, whose descent is traced to the same source. In the list of obits observed in Hereford Cathedral, Johanna is called the Lady Kilpeck, and out of Lugwardine was paid yearly for her obit forty pence."
The effigy of Joanna de Bohun is also valuable as a specimen of costume. Its curious decoration of human heads is also noteworthy.

About those “human heads” on the arch. I wonder if, as was sometimes done, one of the heads represented Isabella of France, Queen of England, wife of King Edward II. Edward II was the uncle of Joanna’s husband Humphrey IX, Earl of Hereford.

Just wondering!

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, June 11, 1846 describes the opened tomb:
The Dean of Hereford, F.S.A., communicated a notice of the burial-place of Joanna de Bohun, on the north side of the Lady Chapel, at Hereford Cathedral, recently disclosed to view during the progress of the restoration of that decayed fabric. In an arched recess in the wall is seen a recumbent effigy, under which a wooden coffin had been deposited in a grave, half the depth of which only was below the level of the chapel. The lid had been covered with linen of fine texture, upon which had been sewn three large crosses pates, and eight smaller ones, formed of white satin: three similar crosses appeared also on each side of the coffin, and four large iron rings at each side and end. The remains had been wrapped in cloth, apparently woollen, fastened with strong packthread: the bones were much decayed, as is usually the case in interments in the Cathedral; but the flowing hair remained perfect, detached from the cranium, like a wig. It was of a yellowish red colour, and so profuse in quantity, that the prevalent notion of the growth of the hair after death, which, as the Dean remarked, had been entertained by him from previous observations, appeared to be confirmed. This lady had been heiress of Kilpec, in Herefordshire, and espoused one of the Bohun family; in the year 1327, she gave the church of Lugwardine, with the chapels of Llan-garrew, St. Waynard's, and Hentland, to the Dean and Chapter of Hereford ; and this donation was subsequently applied to the service of the Blessed Virgin, for which, previously, no sufficient provision had been made in the church of Hereford. It appears by the Obits, that she died in the same year, 1 Edward III [1337]. The foundations and circular apse of the original chapel, succeeded by the beautiful specimen of early English architecture, to which her bequest contributed, had recently been brought to light; the Dean remarked that, in the ante-chapel of this portion of the Cathedral, certain details partaking of Norman character appeared, which are not to be traced in the parts more eastward; and these last, as he supposed, had been constructed subsequently to the gift of the lady of Kilpec.

Joanna’s tomb was covered for several hundred years, and the painting of her presenting the Lugwardine church to Our Lady was covered by white plaster. It was only relatively recently that restorers have repainted her effigy and tomb arch in reds, blues, and gold.

All we know of Joanna is that she was the childless Countess of Hereford, a benefactress of the cathedral in the early 14th century, and that she had masses of yellowish-red hair. If she’d had descendants, we’d know much more about her. But her donations to the Church surely had impact in her lifetime, and could be a lesson to us today. Even the poorest of us have possessions to spare. Take them to a charity shop! You never know what your gifts do to help others, but the same God that Joanna served still honors that faith, and will multiply your donations miraculously.


If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson. It's available in print from CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon

Friday, August 21, 2009

My "star" letter to BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY magazine

In response to an article by Mick Aston about unlocked churches in Anglesey, Wales, I wrote a letter to the editor of British Archaeology, one of the archaeology magazines to which I subscribe. My letter was published in 2007.

Locked out – Star letter

Christy K Robinson

In Anglesey Revisited (Nov/Dec 2006) Mick Aston wrote that "there is much of interest in many of the churches on Anglesey, as elsewhere in Britain". Amen to that. He continued, "Sometimes the churches are not open to travellers". Last September I put 3,500 miles on a hired car, zipping around England and Wales between cathedrals, ruined abbeys, and medieval parish churches, looking for stone tomb effigies of my ancestors (my third such trip). Some churches were open, and I left a few pounds in the offering box as thanks. Then, inexplicably, I was unable to enter others in which I was assured by internet research that my ancestors "resided". It was heartbreaking to be a few feet away from my goal and not able to enter.

At Merevale Abbey near Atherstone, Warks, the manor owner dug up a key and the farm manager's wife let me in to visit my de Ferrers ancestors. At Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire, the property owners allowed me walking access to their beautiful farm, and took a photo of me between my 12th century ancestors' effigies. At Tutbury, Staffordshire, an octogenarian tending her husband's grave not only found a key to the church, but had me in for tea: the quintessential English "thing" this American will long remember. It lessened the sting that one snippy secretary refused admittance to let me take exterior photos of my ancestral castle during business hours on a weekday.

Mr. Aston concluded his article by saying that the "wealth of history, sculpture, architecture and archaeology to be seen in our parish churches makes them an important part of the cultural tourist industry". In a couple years I'll have enough savings to return (the dollar-to-pound exchange is brutal). Like California's "Governorator" Schwarzenegger says, "I'll be back" – investing in your economy via airline and train fares, accommodations, car hire and petrol, admission fees, purchasing books and antique china, and leaving my vat/gst money there, too. By all means, keep those churches unlocked.

Christy K Robinson, Redlands, California

PS As the editor of a 30,000-circulation Christian ministry magazine, I salute Mike Pitts's chutzpah in publishing the interesting assortment of letters in the Nov/Dec issue.


Monday, August 17, 2009

"I see dead people!"

© 2009 by Christy K Robinson

I collect photos of ancestral effigies. I have compiled a list of burial places for hundreds of ancestors. I’ve even visited many of the burial places in England, Scotland, Ukraine, and Paris. There are scores of locations I’ve yet to visit.

What is an effigy? Dictionary.com says, “a representation or image, esp. sculptured, as on a monument.”

The medieval effigy gave words to the deceased, which even an illiterate audience could read: the stone image showed the social status, religious piety, power, and beauty that the deceased would have at the Resurrection, as well as a bit of history in the accompanying heraldic insignia: which noble families contributed to the genealogy, status, dignitas, and wealth of the deceased. Effigies were, like the pyramids of Egypt, meant to be eternal memorials to the memory of the deceased. Their depictions were specified in wills.

Realism in depicting the deceased came in a big way during the reign of Edward III and Philippa (latter half of the 14th century), but there was a wonderful art patronage during Henry III’s reign a hundred years earlier, so some effigies may bear resemblance to the person who’s buried there. In royal personages, there was an attempt at realism in the facial features of the tomb effigy, while the body and clothing were idealized as the warrior, the pious, the literate. There are several paintings, bosses, and sculptures of Eleanor of Aquitaine, that show a beautiful woman with an oval face. Taken on the whole (if you squint), you can get an idea of her looks. Similar story with Edward II’s wife Isabella of France.


If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson. It's available in print from CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon

I like the sweetness of the clasped hands of Katherine Mortimer and Thomas Beauchamp, Countess and Earl of Warwick, at the church of St. Mary there. (Katherine was daughter of Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March.)
Katherine Mortimer and
Thomas Beauchamp at Warwick.
Photo by Christy K Robinson
The effigies I’ve observed are now bare stone, but many of them would have been richly painted in blue, red, and gold. The ones of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, in France, have been restored to colorful glory. 

Ralph Neville, 1st Earl Westmorland, is the central figure of an effigy grouping at Staindrop church at Raby, Durham. His first and second wives (Margaret Stafford and Joan Beaufort, both of whom are my ancestors) are buried elsewhere, but are depicted in alabaster with Ralph at Staindrop. The women look the same in features, dress, and age, although Margaret died at age 32 and Joan at age 61. I’m not sure of the date of the sculptures, but Ralph’s wife Joan Beaufort died in 1440. The alabaster was said to have come from John of Gaunt’s quarries, so perhaps they were made during the life of Joan, youngest daughter of John of Gaunt.
Humphrey de Bohun's effigy at Exeter.
Photo by Christy K Robinson
In non-royal effigies, I’ve read (somewhere) that effigies were roughed out by masons at a quarry, then finished and “personalized” to order. Most effigies have no resemblance to the deceased, but are depicted in clothing or armor of their generation. The women appear to be in their 20s (and might have been if they died in childbirth), and the men in their 40s. However, at Arundel’s FitzAlan Chapel, there’s a grotesque effigy of a decomposed body, some sort of super-pious reminder that humans are inherently evil and destined for hell. 
Effigy of Longespee at Salisbury.
Many images portray the person with open eyes fixed upon a prayer book, an image of saint, angel, or crucifix; or with the body turned slightly toward the altar. All recumbent effigies (and indeed the bodies buried there) have their feet toward the east end of the church, reportedly because at the Second Coming of Christ, the body would arise facing the Lord. Some effigies show a relaxed body with crossed legs and feet resting on a pillow, a lion, or a lap dog. Others depict knights in battle armor, hands on sword pommels. 
On some tombs, there are small figures carved at the base. These are “weepers,” showing their loss with hunched bodies or hands covering their faces, but much more, they indicated the noble ancestry or the virility of the deceased. Sometimes the weepers depicted the children of the deceased, as with 13th-century Ralph Neville and Alice d’Audley at Durham, or with the 16th-century Eyre memorials at St. Thomas Church in Salisbury. In clerical instances, the weepers represented their noble connections and/or ecclesiastical authority.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of effigies were destroyed when abbeys and priory churches were destroyed at the Dissolution in the 1530s. After the removal of precious art and furniture, the lead roofs were melted for recycling, the churches were burned, and the dressed stones removed to build other structures. Even more tombs were destroyed or vandalized by parliamentary forces in the English Civil War, including those of my ancestors in Lincoln and Durham Cathedrals.

Although I’ve found ancestral effigies in small gatehouse chapels and huge cathedrals, my favorite effigies were those of the Lords of Middleham, Robert fitzRanulf and his father Ranulf fitzRobert, at Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire (see my blog header). The effigies were discovered in the wreckage of the Dissolution, and now stand as garden art on private property. Ranulf and Robert were ancestors of the powerful Neville family from whom I (and millions of others) descend.

When you see the effigy, say a prayer or “think good thoughts” if you’re so inclined. That was the purpose of an effigy -- that onlookers would remember the importance or influence of a life; that the pile of dust inside the tomb was once beloved of mother or father, children or spouse. While they lived, they patronized religious houses (providing charity to the poor and dying). They were mighty in battle or political influence. When these people lived, they paid for masses and prayers in perpetuity, hoping to be relieved and redeemed from purgatory or hell. Who knows how long (or if) these prayers continued. But some of us like to pay our respects and wonder, just a little, what the living years felt like for the people resting under the effigies.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bradenstoke Priory/Abbey, Wiltshire, England

-->In September 2006, on a vacation trip to England, my last stop on September 20 was in the tiny village of Bradenstoke, which you really have to be looking for, to find. It only has one road in, and the same road back out after you turn around! Houses, churches, post office, and school – all front in a compact manner on the single road. The architecture spans several styles over the centuries from medieval to Tudor to the 18th century thatched houses.

Bradenstoke’s name is from “Stoche,” a settlement, and Brayton Forest. What I observed was a very long ridge with a flat area behind it, and no forest in sight, vast tracts of farmland in cultivation, with trees for windbreaks. The flat area to the south of Bradenstoke, which had been part of the priory property, became RAF Lyneham airfield in the 1920s (or 1930s?).

I stopped at what looked like an ancient stone church (St. Mary’s, built in 1866) in the center of the village, and the gate was open but the church was locked. I heard someone knocking on an upper-storey window, and looked around to see an old man gesturing at me. I walked around to his front door, which was a post office and general store, and he appeared with the keys to the church. But this was a Victorian-built church, made to look medieval, so it would not have held my ancestors’ remains. The store owner invited me in to his shop, which was closed that afternoon. His name, no kidding, was John Smith. The only plainer name could have been John Doe, I suppose.

Mr. Smith lives and works in a building that had low, bowed ceilings, with rough oak timbers across the ceiling. It looked very old, and he said that it had been appraised by a historical architect as being built roughly 1350-1380, not like those (sniff!) new buildings down the street which were Tudor half-timbered.

"The time of King Edward III," I said. He was incredulous that I would know that, as he’d just clipped a newspaper article last April (five months ago) which said that Edward III lived in the mid-14th century, the same time as his building was put up, what a coincidence.
Artist conception of  Bradenstoke.

I was trying to get Mr. Smith to talk about the priory/abbey down the road, but he talked a continuous stream about the village, particularly what a huge coincidence that he should look out his window at the time I was rattling the lock on the church door, considering that his store wasn’t open, as he is semi-retired and this was his half-day, and that little girl on the bike always wanted to get into his store for 20p worth of sweets, and he wanted to keep the lights off so people wouldn’t try to come in on his half-day and buy groceries, so could we use window light to look at his 1820s poster of an auction that included his building. Then he mentioned that the abbey was taken apart by that American newsman, you know the one (William Randolph Hearst, I guessed, and he nodded vigorously), and the stones shipped to California…. I should talk to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, who acted high and mighty and better than other people, but maybe they’d let me see the abbey bits left on their land… Et cetera.

That was my cue to exit Mr. Smith’s presence. By now, it was a bit after 5 pm, so I was worried that it was awfully late to be seeing the site and driving all the way back to Gloucester, where I was staying with my friend. I drove another half-mile down the road and turned in at a farm that had a number of very old stone buildings on it. I parked in the gravel driveway and walked around to the entrance door of the house, and knocked about four different times, but no answer. I walked back to my car, and a Toyota Land Cruiser had parked behind me. “Are you
Mr. Thomas?” I asked the driver. He said yes, and I said I’d move my car so he could get in, that I’d just been knocking on his door.

I explained that my ancestors, Edward of Salisbury and others, had granted the land to found the abbey, and at least one had been buried in the church here. These are the other ancestors I’ve learned were buried at Bradenstoke:
...Walter/Gauthier d’Evreux (de Ewrus) fitzEdward, sheriff of Salisbury, 1100-1147. In 1142, he was the founder of the Augustinian priory of Clack, also known as Bradenstoke Priory or Bradenstoke Abbey. Walter took the habit of a canon in 1147, the year he died.
...Patrick de Chaworth/Chaources, b. 1052, father of Sybil de Chaworth
...Sybil de Chaworth, wife of Walter de Salisbury FitzEdward (buried near the choir)
...Edward d'Evreux of Salisbury, 1060-1130 (buried near the choir)
...(Possibly) Maud FitzHubert, wife of Edward d’Evreux of Salisbury
...(Possibly) Philippa d’Evreux, mother of Edward d’Evreux of Salisbury
...Adela/Elia de Talvas, wife of Patrick, earl of Salisbury (he was buried in Abbey St Hilaire, Poitou after being killed in ambush of Eleanor of Aquitaine). Adela was daughter of Count of Ponthieu.
...John FitzGilbert Marshal, father of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. See article by Elizabeth Chadwick on John Marshal HERE.
...Sibilla de Salisbury, wife of John FitzGilbert Marshal, and mother of William Marshal
Mr. Thomas was not at all high and mighty, but instead took me around to see where the church had been, the abbot’s quarters, the entrance to the undercroft of the priory hall, and a tower. Many of the church stones had been taken away long ago to be used to build houses, farms, walls, etc., in the village. Mr. Thomas’s house and farm buildings were rebuilt from abbey stones, too, in an interesting patchwork.

The buildings that William Randolph Hearst had taken apart in the 1920s were the guest house and a tithe barn, taken first to Castell St. Donat’s in Wales, then the barn was shipped to San Simeon, California. There’s a tall jetty from the Pacific beach there, where Hearst received his cargos of treasures and sent them up the hill by railroad.

I visited San Simeon in January 2009, but could find no reference in its bookshop for anything Bradenstoke.

As I learned recently, the tithe barn was never rebuilt by Hearst. It stayed in wooden crates in a warehouse at Hearst Castle until 1960, when it was purchased by a hotelier and his company, Alex Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo. The intent was to build it on his hotel property as a wedding chapel, but he was not given a construction permit because of safety concerns in earthquake country. The San Andreas Fault throws off some big ones every few years. There’s a short video of the Bradenstoke tithe barn crates at a central California warehouse. The workmen open a crate to reveal a long, rough-hewn oak beam. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80PHqu9fH9Q Video posted July 2008.

Anyway, Mr. Thomas was very friendly and helpful, and as nice as could be. After feeding his dogs their supper, he
showed me the area of his paddock where the church had stood, and we could deduce where the choir and altar would have been, which is where my ancestors would have been buried. He pointed to a tunnel-like stone structure which was the undercroft of the abbot’s house/guest house (the upper building was bought and carried away by Hearst). The superstructure may also be known as the King’s House, built by Henry II. (Not sure of that, so don’t quote me.)

Then, picking our way through sheep dung, he took me through a wooden gate and down the hill just a bit to a gate tower covered in green vines and foliage.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas keep about 50 sheep (for sale as meat, as there’s no value for wool these days, he said), two cattle, some horses, and three dogs. (I think I also saw a peacock.) They work elsewhere during the day and do the extra farm chores on the weekend.
Mr. Thomas said that over the last hundreds of years, most of the abbey’s land remained in one large piece until the Second World War, when about 1500 acres were taken for the RAF Lyneham base close by. Many planes were taking off and landing while I was there. I don’t know if they were bombers or cargo planes. They didn’t look sleek and fast, so maybe the latter.

It had taken me hours to get to Bradenstoke on all the twisty-turny A and B roads from
Gloucester to Malmesbury to Bradenstoke, so I decided to take motorways home, even if they were miles out of the way. I don’t relish driving 30 mph on dark, winding roads for hours. It was still a long drive, but at least it was safer.

The photos shown here were taken by the blog author.
Source articles and further information:
http://www.lynehamvillage.com/info/towns/bradenstoke.html Informative article on Bradenstoke village history, includes photo of interior of the undercroft.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Llanthony times two

Llanthony Priory kept coming up in my research as a burial place for my ancestors the de Bohuns. On a map, I found a Llanthony in Monmouthshire, Wales, but the historical references were usually to “Llanthony in Gloucester.” How could that be? So I launched an internet investigation, wrote some emails, and visited both sites (for there are two indeed) on a 2006 vacation in UK.

Llanthony Prima, Wales
I made a point of visiting Llanthony Prima Priory near Abergavenny, six miles northwest of Llanfihangel Crucorney, Gwent, mid-Wales. What a beautiful site.

Llanthony Priory was founded in the Vale of Ewyas, in the Black Mountains of Wales, as a chapel dedicated to St. David, but became a priory in 1118. Hugh de Lacy (brother or cousin of my de Lacy ancestors) assumed its patronage and endowed it with lands. In about 1135, the rebellious Welsh, who had been displaced by the conquering Normans (including my ancestor Miles fitzWalter of Gloucester), sacked the priory. After a restoration of peace, the de Lacy family renewed their financial support and imported personnel from Gloucester to re-establish the priory.

However, repeated Welsh attacks on the remote and unprotected Llanthony made it dangerous. In 1136, the monks who had retreated from Wales established a daughter priory in Gloucester, called Llanthony Secunda.

Building the Llanthony Prima church began about 1180, and continued for 50 years. It began at the east end (the chancel) with rounded arches, and continued toward the west, with more gothic architectural features as the years passed.

To get to Llanthony Prima, you really have to want it, and intend to find it. But I found my way easily. The four-mile drive is mostly one vehicle wide, with occasional wide spots for courtesy passing, as in: one car stops and waits for the oncoming car to squeak by. There are places of dark, dense woods, and places where you drive between 8-foot hedgerows, and other spots you can see across the sheep-dotted river valley to the tree-covered escarpment. The late-afternoon sun was sometimes behind the mountains and sometimes spotlighted impossibly green pastures with grazing horses.

Admission to Llanthony is free, and there were a fair number of people there, who had been staying in the inn there and taking horse treks up into the mountains. Sounds like a very nice vacation! The horses have big, furry hooves, like draft horses, but they weren’t that tall. They were Welsh Cobs, descendants of war horses that could carry medieval warriors in heavy armor, and were good swimmers and jumpers. I suppose the wider hoof makes them more sure-footed.

Llanthony Prima--
where the altar would have been
The priory was very pretty, and you could see that it must have been a lovely gothic place when it flourished. The stones of the windows and crossing still stand. There’s also a wall that hangs 15 degrees off of plumb. The priory was sacked several times, by Welshmen, and by Henry VIII’s Dissolution vandals, who really gave it the death sentence.

Llanthony Secunda, Gloucester
My ancestors’ connection with “Llanthony” continued in the 12th century with Sybil de Neufmarche, daughter of Bernard de Neufmarche, Lord of Brecon (a conquering Norman) and Nest, granddaughter of the ruler of Wales, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. Sybil de Neufmarche married Miles fitzWalter in 1121. Miles fitzWalter, 1st Earl of Hereford, Lord of Brecknock, and sheriff of Gloucestershire, lived 1100-1143. Sybil and Miles had seven children, two of whom were my ancestors: Bertha of Hereford, who married William de Braose; and Margaret de Gloucester, who married Humphrey (III) de Bohun.

Llanthony Prima and Secunda were Augustinian houses administered by the same prior from 1136 until 1205, when they formally separated. The Gloucester priory, established near the Southgate suburbs of the walled city, was richly endowed by Miles of Gloucester (Earl of Hereford). The lands had already been granted to the church by Miles’ father, Walter of Gloucester, and his father before him. Now they were attached to the new Llanthony Priory.

The Abbey of St. Peter, which became Gloucester Cathedral, considered that Llanthony Secunda “poached” grants of lands and monies (and lucrative burials and obituary masses) from local noble families. There was a decades-long argument over where Miles of Gloucester should finally be buried. Llanthony won. (But Gloucester Cathedral still stands!)

Llanthony Priory Secunda is the location where about 10 generations of de Bohuns (pronounced “Boon”) and others were buried. There’s not much left of the property but a few tithe barns and outbuildings.

I visited Llanthony Secunda on a windy and chilly morning in September. It’s just a block or two off the Bristol Road, near the historic docks on the Severn River, and near Gloucester’s city center. The entrance to the historic site is located in an industrial area. There’s a stone arched gateway into the grounds that remains from the 12th century.  This is a Google Maps view of Llanthony Secunda.

View Larger Map

Based on the storyboard plaque, I took photos of the site where the church had been, and even have a shot of the college building under construction, in the background of the ruins. I’m glad that the site is being preserved the best it can be after its abuse in previous centuries. The loss of the tomb effigies is horrible.
Gatehouse of Llanthony Secunda
The priory and its church, where all those de Bohuns were buried, was obliterated at Henry VIII’s Dissolution, and took heavy damage when it was a besiegers’ fort in 1643 during the Civil War. In 1810 or so, when a canal and rail line were built through there, they found human remains about two meters deep, which they then burned. The site is now protected as a historical monument.

My ancestors known to be buried at Llanthony Secunda in Gloucester include:
...Miles fitzWalter of Gloucester, 1100-1143
...Sybil de Neufmarche (his wife), d. 1143
...Humphrey III de Bohun, 1109-1187
...Margaret of Gloucester (m. Humphrey III de Bohun), 1125-1187
...Henry de Bohun, 1176-1220
...Humphrey V de Bohun, 1208-1275
...Maud d’Eu (his wife), 1208-1241
...Eleanor de Braose (m. Humphrey VI de Bohun) d. 1251

Additional links:
England and Normandy in the Middle Ages 
The Trials of Llanthony [Prima]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

St Mary's Staindrop, home church of Nevilles

St. Mary's Staindrop, west end
Twelve hundred year-old St. Mary’s church, in the village of Staindrop near Raby Castle in County Durham, seems an unlikely place to hold the tombs of the powerful Neville family. It’s just a few miles down the road from the beautiful Raby Castle, built by my ancestors the Nevilles, and now a palace for Lord Barnard and his family.

Many aristocratic families buried their dead in abbeys, priories, and large, impressive churches--and those edifices were destroyed at the Dissolution by Henry VIII, or in the English Civil Wars in the mid-17th century. But Staindrop St. Mary's has survived intact, perhaps because it was small and out of the way.  "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

In fact, St. Mary’s at Staindrop was a very important abbey church from Saxon times. My ancestors through Robert Fitzmaldred, a Saxon lord who married Isabel de Neville, go back to Saxon and Scottish royalty. Isabel’s de Neville’s ancestors go back to Neuville-sur-Touques, Normandy, about 1000 AD. The church predates both Robert and Isabel by 300 years.

Staindrop church in present-day shape.
The nave was square in the 11th century, rectangular in the 12th,
and in 1343, Ralph Neville (who is buried in Durham Cathedral!)
enlarged it to a square again by adding the Lady Chapel
on the south for the Neville women's burials.
 The marriage of Robert Fitzmaldred (1172-1242) and Isabel de Neville (1176-1254) brought the Norman Neville name, estates, and influence together with the Saxon landholders of Raby, in a family that would strongly influence English history for hundreds of years – and 800 years and 27 generations later, result in the author of this blog.

Two couples of Nevilles are entombed at Durham Cathedral: Lady Maud de Percy (1335-1378) and husband Lord John Neville (1328-1388); and Lord Ralph Neville (1291-1367) and his wife Lady Alice d’Audley (d. 1374). They were patrons of Durham Cathedral and donated the magnificent carved-stone Neville Screen in the chancel of the cathedral. Several generations of Nevilles were buried at Coverham Abbey near Middleham Castle, which the Nevilles inherited.

Those with medieval effigies in the Staindrop church:

…Margery de Thweng Neville, 1st wife of Baron Ralph Neville (1291-1367 who is buried at Durham cathedral with 2nd wife Alice d’Audley). Margery died childless.
…Isabel de Neville, 1176-1254. Her husband Robert Fitzmaldred’s burial place is unknown.
…Euphemia de Clavering Neville, 1267-1339. Her husband Randolph Neville was buried at Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire. For a lovely description with excellent photos of Euphemia's effigy, visit http://anhrefn.blogspot.com/2011/06/euphemia-de-clavering.html
…Ralph Neville, 1st Earl Westmorland, 1364-1425. (Ralph’s effigy and tomb is here, plus both wives’ effigies: Margaret Stafford was buried at Brancepeth Castle and Joan Beaufort was buried at Lincoln Cathedral). This Ralph, in 1408, was granted the license to found a college at the church, with an endowment the equivalent of today’s £300,000.
…Child’s effigy, unknown name. Perhaps this effigy represents one child, or many infants or children who succumbed to stillbirth, illness, or injury, who are buried in the church.

The Staindrop roof has been raised, and you can see a steep pitch in the stonework above the chancel, below the nearly-flat beamed ceiling. The red-ochre and black floor tiles are medieval, and similar colors and style may be seen at many medieval churches across England, including Lincoln, Gloucester, Winchester, Tutbury, and Merevale. The original Saxon church was a cruciform plan, but was enlarged in the 1200s and 1300s by the Nevilles’ sponsorship, and is now nearly a square because the aisles were enlarged by creating space to the west of each transept. The aisles and west end of the nave hold the memorials to the Lords of Raby over the centuries.

The font is Egglesone marble from late 15th century, and carries the arms of Edward Neville, 1st Lord Bergavenny (d. 1476), son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl Westmorland.

The ceiling of the choir is decorated with the Neville arms, and off to the left of the choir is a small viewing window high up, which is a hermit’s view of the altar and Eucharistic ceremonies, according to the signage there. The description of “anchorite” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchorite seems to fit the Staindrop cell better than that of “hermit,” and I found a reference to an anchoritic cell at Staindrop: “… a chamber with an ancient fire-place over the vestry of this church. At the head of the stone newel staircase is a square-headed window of three lights, the mullions of which are cut askew from east to west in order to command the high altar.” http://www.historyfish.org/anchorites/clay_anchorites_seven.html

"The [Staindrop] Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, is a most interesting structure, and bears traces of great antiquity, many distinct evidences of a church of early Saxon foundation being still in existence. The church, in its present form, consists of nave, north and south aisles, both of which are wider than the nave itself, chancel, with spacious vestry, and priest's house or "domus inclusa" [anchorite cell] over it, a north transept, an engaged western tower, and south porch. Traces of an early Saxon church are to be seen in the spandrils of the three eastern arches of the nave on each side, and in the eastern wall of the nave, as high as the springing of the Early Pointed roof. The material used in these ancient fragments of walls is coarse rubble, thickly patched with original moss, decisive proof that a great part of it has not been quarried, but won from the surface." [From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan, London, 1894] Source: http://www.joinermarriageindex.com/pjoiner/genuki/DUR/Staindrop/index.html

I confess to rushing through the church tour, so as to get to my objective: photographing the effigies of my ancestors. So in addition to my observations, I owe some of Staindrop’s history (and the floor plan drawing) to a pamphlet I purchased at the back of the church, St. Mary’s Staindrop, An Illustrated History and Guide, by Clifton Sutcliffe, William K. Trotter, and Rev. David R. Jones.

Also, a hearty thanks to the pastoral staff of Staindrop for leaving the church unlocked during the day so visitors (on pilgrimage from California!) can enter for worship, for study, for reverie, or paying respects to their dusty ancestors.