THE ROYAL LORDS (1066-c.1140)

The earliest two recorded lords of Moreton[hampstead]1 manor faced each other in the most famous battle on English soil. Their lordship is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as seen below.

Domesday Book’s text for Moreton in its typically abbreviated form.

The Liber Exoniensis2 of 1086 is a composite land and tax register associated with the Domesday Survey of 1086, covering much of Southwest England and has a fuller text. The sole surviving copy is MS 3500 in Exeter Cathedral Library. Here is a translation of the relevant Latin text for the manor of Moreton:

The king has an estate which is called Moreton[hampstead], which [Earl] Harold held on the day that King Edward [the Confessor] was alive and dead {i.e. January 5th 1066}, and it paid geld for 3 hides. 20 ploughs can plough these. Of it the king has 1 hide and 3 ploughs in demesne and the villans 2 hides and 8 ploughs. There the king has 16 villans and 6 bordars and 6 slaves and 20 beasts and 130 sheep and woodland 1 league in length and 1 furlong in width, and 20 acres of meadow and 60 acres of grazing-land; and it pays 12 pounds by weighing and smelting and it paid the same amount, when Baldwin received it. To this estate just mentioned is attached the {i.e. every} third penny {i.e. collected} of the hundred of Teignbridge.’

1] Moretonhampstead was called only Moreton until the fifteenth-century when it acquired the suffix ‘hampstead’ for unknown reasons.

From this we can conclude:
HAROLD GODWINSON: LORD OF MORETON (?-1066) held the manor on January 5th 1066 when he was Earl of Wessex and most probably still held it from January 6th to October 14th 1066 while he was also King of England. The manor is important enough in terms of its income of. a third of the local hundred’s revenues to be a desirable manor for such a powerful man. The Sheriff of Devon at the time of the Conquest was Heca1 who was described elsewhere in the Liber Exoniensis as ‘vicecomes’ and he probably supervised the royal manors in the county.

1] Entry 322b1 re The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) database at

KING WILLIAM I: LORD OF MORETON (1066-1087) held it as a royal manor when he replaced Harold as King after his victory in the Battle of Hastings on October 14th 1066.

As far as can be determined Moreton continued to be a royal manor for nearly another century during the reigns of King William I’s sons:




THE ROYAL STEWARDS (1066-c.1140)

The lives of the royal lords are well-documented need no further discussion here. Less well-known are the Sheriffs of Devon who would have overseen the manor’s interests for the royal lord and in turn appointed a local steward to actually manage its manorial business. Thus we are told in the Domesday Survey’s description of Moreton that ‘Baldwin received it’. Who was this Baldwin and why and when did he ‘receive’ Moreton?

BALDWIN FITZ {i.e. son of} GILBERT [aka Baldwin de Meulles] (1066- 1086×91) is usually described in contemporary sources as the son of Count Gilbert of Eu, or as Baldwin the Sheriff (of Devon) or Baldwin of Exeter. He was one King William’s closest associates from an early age and after the conquest became his right-hand man in Devon.

How did Baldwin become so involved in the south-west? His presence at the battle of Hastings is unrecorded but probable; that did not necessarily matter for his career advancement. The men to whom William granted large fiefs in his new kingdom were not necessarily those who had fought in the battle. The soldiers were mainly mercenaries who were paid off. Those advanced the most to take over ruling the newly conquered land were invariably members of leading Norman families, especially those connected to the ducal house and who were proven loyal supporters at a time when kinship ties were seen as crucial.

Baldwin’s father Gilbert was the son of an illegitimate son of Richard, duke of Normandy, and a guardian of the young duke and future king William. Moreover, Orderic Vitalis tells us1 that Baldwin’s wife was a cousin of the duke and reckoned Baldwin and his brother Richard de Clare, ancestor of the powerful Clare family, to be among the notable laymen at Duke William’s court in 10662. In addition Baldwin’s second marriage to Emma who held land in the area of Avranchin brought some of his continental interests close to those of the many Bretons in south-western England. Her uncle was probably Robert of Mortain – very powerful in the south-west and brother of William I.3

1] Orderic Vitalis. B.III.p208
2] ibid.
B.II P 462
K.S.B. Keats-Rohan 1991. Published Nottingham Mediaeval Studies 36 (1992), The Bretons and Normans of England 1066-1154: the family, the fief and the feudal monarchy.

In 1068 King William travelled to south-west England to deal with resistance there spearheaded by Gytha, Harold’s mother, and ordered a castle to be built at Exeter. By 1070 the King had made Baldwin castellan of Exeter and hereditary Sheriff of Devon to replace William Gualdi aka de Vauville.1 A Willelmus de Walvile is referred to retrospectively in Domesday Book2. By 1086 he is listed in the Domesday Book as “Baldvinus Vicecomes” which office was almost synonymous with that of Sheriff of Devon. Devon like the majority of shires was left with no earl to preside alongside the bishop in the shire court, and his place was taken by the sheriff, now Latinized as ‘vicecomes’, etymologically ‘earl’s deputy’ but in practice analogous with the Norman ‘visconte’.’3

1] Judith A. Green English Sheriffs to 1154, p.35, 1990
2] Fols. 100c, 102c Devon §§ 1. 15, 3. 32
3] › objects › download_file › type_of_work=Journal+article The Earliest Norman Sheriffs by R. Sharpe

Exeter Castle today with its surviving Norman entrance.
From the reddish colour of the volcanic rock on which it stood, it became known locally as Rougemont Castle.

Baldwin’s fiefdom had become the largest in that county and was centred on the feudal barony of Okehampton with a heavy obligation to knight service of more than 90 fees. Yet Moreton is not in the list of 28 manors he held in 1086 as lord nor is it one of the 169 manors where he was tenant-in-chief.1 So we must assume that Moreton remained a royal manor over which Baldwin as Sheriff of Devon had a supervisory role from about 1070, or shortly after once Devon had finally been subdued, and to which he probably appointed a steward for the local management of the manor and demesne land. It is not recorded when he actually ‘received’ Moreton on behalf of the King.


On his death, sometime between 1086 and 1091, Baldwin’s estates were divided between his two eldest legitimate sons: Robert succeeded to Le Sap and Meulles in Normandy and William to the lands in south-west England.

WILLIAM FITZ BALDWIN (c.1086×91-1096)

The circumstantial evidence suggests that he probably also ‘supervised’ the royal manor of Moreton in some way after his father’s death. Born about 1063 in Brionne, Normandy, William was very present in Devon by the time of his father’s death. Before 1090 he was married to a Fitzurse in Devon and by 1190 had inherited his father’s estates in south-west England and his position of Sheriff of Devon

We have no evidence of any direct connections with Moreton. His main recorded actions were in Wales. After death in battle of Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of South Wales at Easter 1093, the Normans attacked his realm. William fitz Baldwin, sheriff of Devon, launched a seaborne attack and established a castle at Rhys-y-gors, a mile south of Carmathen.1


Another recorded action is a bit nearer to Moreton. Between 1090 and 1096 William fitz Baldwin of Exeter granted the manors of Cowick and Exwick near Exeter to Anselm of Bec and a colony of Bec monks was established at Cowick Priory some time between the grant and the 1140s.1

1] D Knowles & R N Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, p63, 1953

Cowick Barton Pub Restaurant. Built in Tudor times on the site of Cowick Priory
(© G. Nympton 2017)

GEOFFREY DE MANDEVILLE (c1196x1100-1119)

Henry I’s grant of extensive Devon estates to his own follower, Baldwin de Redvers, challenged the Meulles family dominance in the county and manors like Moreton would have found themselves caught up in the rivalry. After the death of the childless William fitz Baldwin in 1096, Geoffrey de Mandeville was appointed Sheriff of Devon.1 He was a Cotentin compatriot of the de Redvers’ clan who with his brother Roger was frequent witness to their charters and held land from them in Devon.

1 ibid. Green p47


By at least 1116 a minority in the Redvers’ family enabled the Baldwin’s third son Richard Fitz Baldwin (1067-1137), to acquire the shrievalty for another ten years or so. In 1128 Richard fitz Baldwin appeared1 to be acting as joint sheriff with Geoffrey de Furneaux who is then the sole sheriff accounting for Devon a year later! The see-saw continued into the early years of Stephen’s reign when a royal charter is addressed to Richard fitz Baldwin2, a member of the powerful Clare family who were among Stephen’s most loyal supporters. In 1136 Baldwin de Redvers tried unsuccessfully to re-establish his family’s position with an attack on Exeter castle in one of the first rebellions against Stephen.3

1] ibid Green p36
2] Chronicle of Forde – Monasticon v. 378
3] Gesta Stephani Regis Anglorum ed R.C. Sewell London 1846 p20-22


After the death of the childless Richard, the power struggle continued with his sister, Adelisa, who inherited his lands and the title of Sheriff (‘vicecomitissa’). More crucially for Devon and Moreton, a power struggle for the crown had developed between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. After she established herself in England, probably in early 1141, Empress Matilda. made BALDWIN DE REDVERS EARL OF DEVON and the defender of her interests in the county .3 This was in response to Stephen’s attempts to build up his own base of support in the West Country, including the family of one of the most notorious murderers in English history who had a decisive impact on the manor of Moreton.

1] Survey of the County Devon”, 1630
2] ibid. Monasticon,v,378
3] David Bates, The Normans and Empire, p16, OUP, 2013


Renowned as one of the murderers of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 but less well-known to be the lord of Moreton, much of William de Tracy’s life has been shrouded by myths. As the leading authority on Becket’s murderers has opined: ‘The Tracy descent is a veritable mare’s nest, from which few genealogists have emerged entirely unscathed.1 Fortunately, the assiduous research of Professor Vincent in the English and French archives has gone a long way to clarifying the Tracy descent.2

1] Bischofsmorder im Mittelalter ed. By Natalie Fryde & Dirk Reitz, p231, Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2003
2] Much of what follows on de Tracy is based on Professor Vincent’s chapter entitled ‘The murderers of Thomas Becket’ in the above reference. See also his ‘Becket’s Muderers’, The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, 2002. He was also kind enough to come to Moretonhampstead to give MHS a lecture on ‘Who killed Becket’ as part of our research project on Doccombe manor – see

In the 1130s Henry de Tracy, recently arrived from France, was promoted at court as royal castellan and military commander to defend Stephen’s interests in the West Country against the supporters of Empress Matilda such as Baldwin de Redvers. This came from pre-existing links between Stephen, Count of Mortain before 1135, and the Tracys, a large part of whose Norman estate was held from the honour of Mortain. Several charters show that Henry’s family probably owed their name to the hamlet of Tracy, near Vire – a strategically important area between Normandy, Maine and Brittany that gave opportunities to a family if they backed the right side. Turgis de Tracy, probably William’s grandfather, had been William the Conqueror’s seneschal there in the 1070s. Henry de Tracy in turn obviously served Stephen well in England as he obtained lands in Devon at Barnstaple (a half was surrendered back in 1158) and Great Torrington following their confiscation from rebels against Stephen.1

1] ibid. Gesta Stephani’ p 52/3 & p95

It was probably also through Henry de Tracy that William de Tracy gained Bradninch. He was a close kinsman of Henry but Professor Vincent is not sure how close; could he be the son of Turgis, Henry’s elder brother?1 In 1172 Turgis and William de Tracy are in control of the principal family holdings in France.2 William figures in a number of royal and ducal records in the years immediately before the murder, especially as a witness to settlements and charters as Henry sought to consolidate his position after the ‘nineteen long winters’ of Stephen’s reign. The royal favour was also shown in two pardons for scutage charges for his Devon barony.3 Any acquistion of Morton has not so far been found formally documented but the circumstantial evidence for it emerges after one of the most notorious events of medieval England.

1] See also ODNB article by R M Franklin at
2] Red Book vol II p639
3] Pipe Rolls 11 Henry II p80. Pipe Rolls 14 Henry II p128

William knew that he was lucky to keep lands secured from Stephen when Henry II became king in 1154 as they should have been restored to their former lords His tenure remained insecure and hence perhaps his desire to do Henry’s bidding as were two of the other murderers,Fitz Urse and Morville, for similar reasons when Henry seemed to finally lose patience in his power struggle for control of the church with Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Tracy was certainly at King Henry II’s court at Bur-le-Roi, near Bayeux, at Christmas 1170, where Becket’s conduct, and above all his excommunication of the bishops who had crowned Henry, the Young King, earlier that year, was angrily discussed. The king’s famous outburst, ‘What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk1, which later oral tradition renders simply, ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’, prompted the departure of Tracy with Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, and Richard Brito on their ill-conceived journey to Canterbury and subsequent murder of Becket.

1] J. C. Robertson & J. B. Sheppard, eds., Materials for the history of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, 7 vols., Rolls Series, 67 (1875–85) Vol II p429

Roof boss in Exeter Cathedral depicting the murder of Becket . De Tracy is shown delivering the fatal blow.

Tracy seems to have been the first to come to his senses: in a confession to Bartholomew, bishop of Exeter, apparently made in Devon shortly after the murder, he said that his heart sank and he feared that the earth might open up and swallow him alive.1 His grant of land at Whipton to the nuns of Polsloe priory just outside Exeter was later confirmed by the King2 but it was not enough expiation for the bishop who advised him to go to Rome where the pope ordered him to continue his journey on a penitential pilgrimage to the Holy Land that was currently in dispute between Western crusaders and the supporters of Islam.

The last certainly established action of his life took place at Cosenza in southern Italy, presumably on his way there, where he executed a charter witnessed among others by the of abbot of St Euphemia3, where, according to Herbert of Bosham, Tracy lay dying. Herbert gives horrific details of Tracy’s death, and although there is an alternative tradition that he did reach the Holy Land, his account of events is to be preferred.4

1] ibid. Materials vol. III (Bosham) pp512-13
2] Queen’s College, Oxford ms. 152, fo. 137v (MayX November 1175)
3] The abbey of St Eufemia d’Aspromonte in Regio di Calabria, Italy is about 18 miles from Cosenza.
4] ibid.Materials vol. III pp535-8 & vol. VII pp511-12 no. 769

Tracy’s grant of the manor of Doccombe to Christ Church Canterbury
(Canterbury Cathedral Archives)

Here is a transcription and translation from Latin of Tracy’s charter1, 2:

William de Tracy to all his men both French and English and Friends and Bailiffs and Ministers to whom these letters should come Greetings. I grant and make over to the Chapter of Canterbury3, for the love of God and the salvation of my own soul and the souls of my ancestors, and for the love of blessed Thomas Archbishop and Martyr, of venerable memory, by way of alms in perpetuity and free from any and all charges, one hundred shillings’ worth of land in Moreton, namely Doccombe with its appurtenances and with the adjacent lands, in such manner that those hundred shillings’ worth of land may be made up from Doccombe and the other adjoining lands. I grant this therefore for the clothing and provision of one monk in that monastery3 for ever, who may celebrate masses there for the salvation of the living and the repose of the departed. And in order that this may be firm and right and granted and valid I have strengthened my charter with the confirmation of my seal.
These being witnesses the Abbot of St Eufemia, Master Ralph Hospital, Pagan of Tiru, William the Clerk, Stephen of Par{or c?}ford, Pagan of Acford, Roger the Englishman, Godfrey the Ribald and others

1] Canterbury Cathedral Archive CCA-DCc-ChAnt/D/20
2] The grant is undated. Most probably between Archbishop Thomas Becket’s canonisation on 21 February 1173 (note reference to ‘St. Thomas’) and before confirmation by Henry II between July & October 1174 (see below). The date span is also based on knowledge of appointment dates of witnesses.
3] Founded in 597, Canterbury Cathedral was home to a Benedictine monastic community known as Christ Church Priory as well as being the seat of the archbishop who was nominally their Abbot. With about 80 monks at any one time, the priory was among the largest in the country and took the income from 64 manors, 19 rectories, 6 chantry chapel estates and Canterbury (now Christ Church) College, Oxford.
4] Notes on some of the witnesses:
Pain de Acford: Presumably related to Roger de Acford who in 1166 held of William de Tracy’s barony of Bradninch by new enfeoffment – see Red Book Vol. 1 p.255 – probably within Tracy’s Devon manor of Oakford – for which see Curia Regis Rolls vol. XIII no. 612. First found in Axford in Wilts. in 1184. Acfords had family seat at Ramsbury that includes hamlet of Axford. One of largest Wilts. holdings in Domesday, then held by Bishop of Salisbury.
Roger The  Englishman: The Red Book of the Exchequer p 61, 275,351. Grant of land at Stockleigh English DRO Z1/30/1-4 ? C13th
Ribaldus: = ribald, minstrel, rascal, groom, bachelor
Pain de Tiru(n): presumably the same man who witnessed William de Tracy’s confirmation to St Nicholas’ Priory, Exeter & Hugh de Couterne’s charter to Alan de Tracy – see Round Calendar Documents in France no. 556
Stephen of Parford or Pacford: Pafford on west side of Moretonhampstead manor?
Others: Might include William de Thann who had accompanied William de Tracy ‘cum iter arriperet cum Domino suo Wilemo de Traci versus terram sanctam’ – see Stanley pp 225-6 & CCL ms Reg B fo. 400r (392r, 393r s. xiv). He also made a bequest to Canterbury in honour of blessed martyr Thomas in the event of his death on that journey. His widow lived in Moretonhampstead.

A second Charter Charter of Henry II confirmed Tracy’s gift of Doccombe1:

Henry by the Grace of God, King of the English and Duke of the Normans and Aquitanians and Count of the Angevins to Archbishops Bishops Abbots Counts and Barons Justices Vicecounts & all his ministers and faithful of England Greetings Know [that] I have granted and by this present charter have confirmed to God and the blessed Thomas and the Church of the Holy Trinity of Canterbury the gift that William de Tracy made to them of a Hundred shillings rent which the charter of the same William bears witness that they have Wherefore, I will and firmly command that the aforesaid Church of Canterbury and the monks there shall have and hold to serve God and the blessed Thomas those Hundred shillings rent that the aforesaid William gave them as perpetual alms well and peacefully and freely and wholly and honourably as the same William gave them to them and his charter confirmed. Witnesses G[ilbert] bishop Wigorn[iensis], R[ichard]. elected [bishop] of Winchester, R[obert] elected [bishop] of Hereford, John Dean of Salisbury, Walter of the Island, Count William de Mand[eville], William Fitz-Audel, Hugh of Cressy at Westminster.

1] Canterbury Cathedral Archives CCL Register B f 392/400
2] Notes on some of the grant confirmation’s witnesses:

Gilbert Foliot was Bishop of London (1163-1187)who had supported the king against Becket, who excommunicated him, and often acted as a royal judge.
Wigorn is Roger of Worcester {aka of Gloucester}, Bishop of Worcester 1163-1179 and cousin of Henry II
Richard Winchester is Richard Toclive (aka of Ilchester), elected Bishop of Winchester in May, 1173 and confirmed and consecrated in October, 1174.
Robert Hereford is Robert Foliot, elected Bishop of Hereford in 1173, and consecrated in October, 1174. Relative of Gilbert Foliot.
John of Salisbury is John de Oxeneford (aka of Oxford), Dean of Salisbury from 1165 until he was raised to the See of Norwich in 1175.
Walter of the Island is Master Walter de Insula, , a Royal official viz. he carried out the Inquest of Sheriffs in 1170. His family probably originated on the Isle of Wight.
William de Mand[eville] is William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, 1126-1189. A loyal member of Henry II’s court. Geoffrey fitz Peter married his granddaughter and was granted the manor of Moreton in 1199 (see below).
William Fitz-Audel appears a witness in many of Henry II’s charters and is often described as a sewer i.e. a medieval household officer often of high rank in charge of serving the dishes at table and sometimes of seating and tasting.
Hugh of Cressy was an Anglo-Norman administrator and nobleman.

By this grant Henry II acknowledged William de Tracy’s lordship over Moreton manor and affirmed the grant of part of it called Doccombe to Canterbury. This can be dated to after the election in April 1173 but not before the consecration on 6 October 1174 of Richard of Ilchester and Robert Foliot as bishops of Winchester & Hereford. In that period Henry II was briefly in England in July 1173 and for longer in July and August 1174 when he made a pilgrimage to Canterbury before visiting London.

This evidence of Tracy’s lordship of Moreton is complemented by a document1 a century later, following the death of the then lord of Moreton, in which the manor’s tenantry testified:

DEVON Morton. The manor, tenure unknown; for, William de Tracy who held the barony of Braneys & Morton of the king in chief, took part in the martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury..

1] Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem vol II London 1906 no.153 p96. The inquest was for lands of John fitz John, grandson of Geoffrey fitz Peter and was held in November 1275. (see below).

Doccombe manor remained a property of Christ Church Priory until 1540 when the monasteries were dissolved and it passed to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury cathedral until 1863. Its alienation meant that Moreton manor lost about 1450 acres, including two-thirds of Mardon Common and one third of its Teign Valley woodlands; that left Moreton manor with about  3000 acres or 40% of the land in Moreton parish.1

1] Tithe Apportionments from IR 29/6, 9, 10, 30 (The National Archives)

Moretonhampstead Parish is marked by the red boundary.
The Roman numerals I-XI and the boundaries in green show the sections of Moreton manor based on the 1790 Courtenay survey.
The red letter M and the area in blue behind it show Moreton Borough that came about in the mid thirteenth-century.
The manor of Docccombe granted away by Tracy to Canterbury in c.1173 is bounded by yellow,
The other manors and free tenancies in the parish are named.
(After a map by Dr Ian Mortimer)


The same Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem referred to above tell us that de Tracy’s lands were escheated to the crown. King Richard I (1189-1199) restored custody of the Tracy estates, not to Henry (‘le bozu’)1 de Tracy, William’s son, but to his nephew, Hugh de Couterne who answered for Tracy scutage in 1194 and 1196.2 Hugh retained his custody of William’s lands until the death of King Richard in 1199. King John effectively put them up for sale as competing ‘fines’ for their lordship are recorded from the Tracys of Barnstaple and from Henry de Tracy , the natural heir.3 Henry was given brief possession but in 1199 had to agree to grant away the manor of Moreton, ‘one of his father’s principal possessions4, to the King’s Justiciar, Geoffrey fitz Peter.

‘… William [de Tracy] had a son Henry de Tracy le Bozu1 born in Normandy, who long after came to Geoffrey son of Peter, chief justice of England, grandfather of John son of John, praying him to aid him in recovering his inheritance & for so doing he gave him the said manor of Morton to be held to him.…’5

1] Le Bozu is a descriptive yet derogatory French term for a person who has severe kyphosis or abnormally excessive convex curvature of the spine.
2] Pipe Roll 6 Richard p171
3] Pipe Roll I John p198; Rotuli de Oblatis, pp 15-16 – pace N Vincent, ibid. Bischofsmorder p260.
4] ibid. Bischofsmorder p260.
5] ibid.
Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem …


The Mandeville Lords of Moreton (1199-197)


Geoffrey was born into a family of local royal officials and minor landholders in Wiltshire. By the time he acquired Moreton he had risen far beyond that, showing an impressive capacity for self-improvement and aggrandisement.1

1] The article on Geoffrey on the ODNB website by F J West can be accessed by use of a local library card at Much of what follows owes is indebted to that article.

By 1166 Geoffrey held several lands as a sub-tenant but soon moved on, making his way in the burgeoning echelons of royal administration being created by King Henry II to become sheriff and local justiciar of Northamptonshire and chief royal forester hearing the pleas of the forest in an extensive circuit. At the same time he acquired the custodies of various lands and heirs, including Saham in Norfolk that had belonged to William de Say (d.1177), and included the wardship of William’s two daughters. William’s father had married Beatrice de Say, sister of the wealthy Geoffrey de Mandeville, earl of Essex; in 1184 or 1185 Geoffrey fitz Peter married her granddaughter, also called Beatrice, who was one of his wards.

This was an astute marriage for ambitious Geoffrey: Beatrice was coheir with her sister Maud to the Mandeville barony, an extensive complex of lands across East Anglia, the South-East and Warwickshire. They did not divide the Say inheritance equally with Maud and her husband, William of Buckland; by their final concord of January 1185 they were given only the manor of Bruninton, the service of 2 tenants and a promise of land worth £10 from future acquisitions.1He undoubtedly had Henry II’s consent since heiresses were a valued royal resource, an easy means for the king to reward landless knights in his service.’2

1] Ancient Charters, Royal and Private, ed. J.H.Round. P.R.S. 10 (1888): 108-9 no. 66
2] The Mandeville Inheritance, 1189-1236: Its Legal, Political and Social Context by R.V.Turner in The Haskins Society Journal (1989) Vol. 1 p.150

The Mandeville honour owed the service of 113 knights in Henry II’s time. Earl William de Mandeville was one of the justiciars whom Richard I appointed to rule England during his absence on crusade in 1189, but he died that year, leaving no children nor surviving brothers, so that his heir was his aged aunt Beatrice who had married William de Say. She had two sons; the youngest Geoffrey still alive and William (d.1189) with daughters Beatrice & Maud. If the aunt was bypassed for such a significant honour who should it go to?

Geoffrey fitz Peter was quick to claim the barony in the right of his wife against her uncle Geoffrey de Say. The justiciar, William de Longchamp, at the wish of Say’s grandmother Beatrice, had awarded the barony to Geoffrey de Say for a ‘relief’’ i.e. payment of 7,000 marks but he failed to pay. Geoffrey fitz Peter saw his chance and used his position as a ‘curialis‘ during the king’s absence on The Third Crusade (see below) to secure the barony for only 3,000 marks (£1800).1 He paid only 900 marks (£200) at once, but received seisin of the lands and the third penny of the county of Essex, although not the title of earl.2 Nothing was said about Maud’s right!3

1] Pipe Rolls 2 Richard I 104,111
2] Charter Jan. 1191 issued by King Richard in Sicily on his way to the Third Crusade. (ibid Round Ancient Charters 97-98 n 59
3] ibid Turner p.154

By the time of his wife’s death sometime before April 1197, Geoffrey had used his administrative experience and his baronial status by marriage to become a prominent figure during King Richard’s long periods of absence from England where he only spent about 6 months in his ten year reign. When Richard I became king in 1189, Geoffrey fitz Peter himself had taken a vow of crusade, but the king, by papal permission, released him from his vow. In the arrangements the king made in 1190 for the government of England in his absence on crusade, Geoffrey was one of the named colleagues or a ‘curialis‘ of the justiciar Longchamp, as a baron of the exchequer and a royal justice. He was one of those excommunicated for his part in removing Longchamp in 1191 but soon showed that he was a political survivor. As a colleague of the new justiciar, Archbishop Walter de Coutances, he remained sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire where many of his own lands lay. He had also been astute enough to cultivate Archbishop Hubert Walter, who became justiciar in 1193, and under whom royal administration showed marked innovation. Under Hubert Walter’s justiciarship Geoffrey’s name soon appeared at the head of the justices before whom final concords were made at Westminster.

With Hubert Walter he went on circuit in the Midlands and East Anglia and joined his Welsh expedition in the same year. On Hubert’s resignation of the justiciarship in July 1198, the king appointed Geoffrey as his successor, for by then he was a justice of considerable experience, having begun his career in the days of Glanville when Henry II’s assizes were being worked out. Indeed, he, as well as Hubert Walter, has been suggested as the author of the treatise on the laws which bears Glanville’s name1. Geoffrey had had similarly long experience as a baron of the exchequer, and as a local royal officer. He remained Justiciar until his death in 1213.

1] The ‘Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie’, often called Glanvill’s laws, is the earliest treatise on English law.

On King Richard I’s death in 1199, there was discussion, and perhaps doubt, about the succession but Geoffrey was said to have secured the barons’ allegiance for Richard’s brother John over the claims of Arthur of Brittany at a council at Northampton in 1199; and at his coronation feast ‘Johannes rex accinxit … Gaufridum Filium Petri gladio comitatus de Exsex’ – King John girded Geoffrey Fitz Peter with the sword of earl of Essex.1 This implied the King considered him to be an earl de facto without actually creating him one de iure. He paid off the balance of his debt within three years but his unclear earldom gave John a subtle weapon for keeping him loyal – it was only held ‘during the king’s pleasure’ and the dominant de Say claim could always be revived.2

1] Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene ed. W.Stubbs (Longman & Co. and Trubner) 1871 Vol. IV p90
2] ibid Turner p155

Shortly after Geoffrey acquired Moreton.

King John’s confirmation of the grant of Moreton manor to Geoffrey fitz Peters is recorded in two charter rolls:

John by the Grace of God. etc.. Know that we have given and confirmed by this present charter the gift which Henry, son of William de Tracy, made to Geoffrey Fitz Piers, earl of Essex, of the manor of Moreton with all its appurtenances, to have and to hold by the same Geoffrey and his heirs from the said Henry and his heirs in perpetuity, by the free service of one sore sparrowhawk1 every year by way of all services and dues belonging to the same Henry and his heirs. Wherefore we wish and strictly order that the same Geoffrey and his heirs shall have and hold from the same Henry and his heirs the same manor in perpetuity for the said service, as the charter of the same Henry attest. Witnesses to this: William the marshal, Earl of Pembroke; William de Braose; Hugh Bardolf; Simon of Pattishall; Peter of Stokes. Given by the hand of Simon Archdeacon of Wells and John Gray at Sorham June 20th in the first year of our reign.’2

1]   A ‘sore sparrow hawk’ was a bird in its first year, capable of being trained to strike and bring down smaller birds, such as could be used for the table. As there were no imports of fresh meat from abroad then, and most of the English meat had to be salt cured for winter use, it was necessary to have good supplies of game (both birds and beasts). 

2] Charter Rolls of 1 John, dated 20th June 1199.

A Sparrowhawk Sculpture in The Square at Moretonhampstead.
Put up in 2000 as part of the Millenium Project celebrating a 1000 years of the parish’s heritage.

John by the Grace of God, etc… Know that we have given and by this present charter confirm the gift which Hugh de Courtenay made to Geoffrey Fitz Piers, earl of Essex, of the whole manor of Moreton with the advowson of the church, and with all other appurtenances of the same manor within and without the town (villa) without reservation, to have and hold by the same Geoffrey and his heirs from the same Hugh and his heirs, for the service of half a knight’s fee by way of all services and dues. Wherefore we wish and strictly order that the same Geoffrey Fitz Piers should have and hold the same manor with appurtenances by hereditary right as the charter of the said Hugh attests.1

1] Charter Rolls, 2 John, dated; 4th November 1200, which incorporates an earlier charter of 1 John, dated 20th June 1199.

There are two significant points to note about these charters,

Firstly, both charters had this footnote:

‘Note that by special order of the lord King in this confirmation is omitted [the word] reasonable’.

This shows that even ruthless King John was not happy about this ‘nefarious transaction’.1 Geoffrey had strong armed Henry to give him Moreton in return for Geoffrey’s help, as the King’s Justiciar, in recovering the rest of his lands. ‘Clearly there was nothing ‘reasonable’ about a transaction that was so obviously a bribe’.2

1] & 2] ibid. Nicholas Vincent in Bischofsmorder p261

Secondly, the statement that Geoffrey Fitz piers should hold the manor by hereditary right shows a degree of ownership which excludes the continuation of comital status. The replacement of the original nominal service of one sparrowhawk in the 1199 charter by the more usual service in 1200 based on a ‘knight’s fee’ implies that Moreton was now placed on the same basis of assessment to service or tax as applied to most other estates and manors1. Yet in 1297 Richard Fitz John is shown as holding the manor of the king in chief for one sparrowhawk or 2s yearly2; and in 13293 Robert Courtenay still rendered one mewing sparrowhawk. The first reference to the correct assessment occurs in Feudal Aids of 13464: under the heading of the Hundreds of Haytor and Moreton, Hugh de Courtenay is shown as holding Moreton for half a knight’s fee of 20s. From this entry it might be concluded opined Heath that the Exchequer had at last succeeded in correctly assessing the manorial lord. Or does it? Under the heading of the Teignbridge Hundred (where Moreton has always been) we find that Hugh de Cortenay {sic} holds Moreton ‘pro uno esperverio in socagio quod comes Ultonie quondam tenuit pro quo manerio oneratus fuit de relevio nichil‘.5 That means that he held it for a sparrowhawk in soccage (i.e trained) as did the Earl of Ulster6 and so nothing is owed for a relief/fee. While Feudal Aids as late as 14287 also show under the Teignbridge heading that ‘the heirs of Hugh de Courtenay hold Moreton for one sparrowhawk in soccage, which of old Hugh de Courtenay once held‘.

So, as Heath muses, did the lords of Moreton evade their proper taxation for 200 years or not?8

1] Key History of Moretonhampstead by R O Heath, privately published, pp46-7
2] The National Archives C133/80/6 Inquistions Post Mortem Series I 25 Edward I 1297
3] ibid C 135/13/13 IPM 2 Edw. III 1329 ‘Robert Courtenay of Moreton held a messuage, a carucate of land, 9 acres of meadow, 2 water mills & 100s rent of king by service of mewing sparrowhawk yearly.’

4] Inquisitions And Assessments Relating To Feudal Aids, Vol. 1: With Other Analogous Documents Preserved in The Public Record Office, A. D. 1284-1431 p437 & p440

5] ibid. p391
6] Richard de Burgh, second earl of Ulster [called Red Earl] (b. in or after 1259, d. 1326), magnate, lord of Connacht, was the eldest son and heir of Walter de Burgh, earl of Ulster (d. 1271), and of Avelina, daughter of John fitz Geoffrey, justiciar of Ireland (1245–56) and lord of Moreton (1258-1275).
7] ibid Inquisitions And Assessments etc.
8] ibid. Heath p47

As justiciar, Geoffrey fitz Peter appeared to remain in the shadow of Hubert Walter who was both archbishop of Canterbury and the king’s chancellor. Nevertheless, when King John was in France, before the loss of Normandy in 1204, and when he was in Ireland in 1210, the government ran in Geoffrey fitz Peter’s name as regent. He presided over the exchequer, and was the authority to whom the barons looked for instruction even when the king was in England. From 1200 a scutage was levied almost annually, and in 1202 and 1203 the money raised by tallages, and the profits of justice, went through the exchequer audit in the same year, which suggests that he was making a determined attempt to collect and deliver as much as he could as quickly as possible. He also strengthened his own financial position and by 1204 was sheriff of seven counties.

As a justice Geoffrey was no less active. He organized three eyres in the later summer and early autumn of 1199, and himself led the justices who visited Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. In 1202 there was a general eyre, as extensive as those of 1194 and 1198, and he led the justices in Surrey, Kent, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Sussex. He regularly presided over the bench at Westminster, and in his absence pleas were adjourned for consultation with him, even though there had emerged a group of regular and experienced justices who could maintain the legal fiction of the justiciar’s presence.

While Hubert Walter remained chancellor until 1205, it is not certain how much he or Geoffrey fitz Peter was the driving force behind royal administration. Some scholars have spoken of Walter’s ‘genius’ as distinct from Geoffrey’s ‘competence’. There is no evidence that Geoffrey was anything other than a loyal servant who furthered the king’s interests in the administration of justice and finance, and also served him as a soldier, when he campaigned against the Welsh in 1206 and 1210. The king’s presence in England after the loss of Normandy, the disappearance of chancery enrolments between 1210 and 1212, and the cessation of pleadings in the bench after 1210, give the appearance of a diminished role for the justiciar, but there is no evidence of royal distrust of him, nor of a breach between them. The justiciar could always have been dismissed, but Geoffrey held his office until his death.

After the loss of Normandy he had, indeed, been further rewarded by the king. He was granted the castle and honour of Berkhamsted at a fee farm of £100 p.a. in May 1205, its income being £400 p.a., in addition to twenty-two knights’ fees held of the honour of Mortain. It had also the right of succession to the children of Geoffrey and his second astute choice of wife, Aveline, the widow of William de Munchensi; of Swanscomb, Kent, and Gooderstone, Norfolk, and a daughter of Roger de Clare, the powerful earl of Hertford.

Geoffrey also received from the king, sometimes in return for payment in money and – somewhat ironically given Moreton’s sparrowhawk service – hunting hawks, a significant part of the lands forfeited by Normans in England, such as Robert fitz Ernis, in all worth over £100 p.a. and the valuable dock at Queenhithe in the city of London.

But what about his impact on Moreton. That was also significant.

The King to the Sheriff of Devon, etc.. Know that we have given to our beloved and trusty Geoffrey Fitz Piers, earl of Essex, a market in Moreton every week on Saturdays, unless it be to the injury of neighbouring markets. And therefore we order you to grant this market to him, and to have it proclaimed throughout the area of your authority on the same day.’1

1] Close Rolls, 8 John, 5th May 1207

One of the last cattle markets at Moretonhampstead before its closure in 1939 after 732 years.
(Photo: M. Perryman)

The grant of a market in May 1207 was followed a few weeks later by the grant of a fair:

John by the Grace of God, etc.. Know that we have given and by this our charter confirm to Geoffrey Fitz Piers, earl of Essex that he shall have at Moreton a fair every year, lasting five days namely the vigil of All Saints, the day and the three following days as long as the fair shall not be to the injury of neighbouring fairs. Wherefore we wish and strictly order that the said Geoffrey and his heirs shall have and hold the same fair with all its appurtenances, well and in peace, freely, quietly, honestly, in all places and things, with all liberties and free customs belonging to the same fair, as has been said’.1

1] Charter Rolls 9 John l6th June 1207

The annual carnival at Moretonhampstead is a direct legacy of the annual fair granted in 1207.

In the time of King Alfred it had been enacted, c.932 AD, that the privilege of holding a market should be extended to rural areas, and probably one market centre was set up in each Hundred; but attendance at such a market involved the villein farmers of Moreton in a very difficult and hazardous journey to Teignbridge (Kingsteignton). The lord of the manor also stood to gain considerable extra revenue from his charges for stallage and other market dues as well as from increased consumption of ale brewed exclusively in his brewhouse.The grant of the market and fair to Moreton at this date shows perhaps the influence that the earl of Essex had with King John. It may also reflect John’s need for financial support which this sort of grant could help to secure. It may also be associated with ending of all Devon being classed as a royal forest.1 Nevertheless the grant of a fair along with a market as early as 1207 shows that Moreton had achieved an advanced stage of development by the early thirteenth-century. Only four towns in Devon had been granted a fair before Moreton – Barnstaple, Exeter, Tavistock and Totnes.2

1] In 1204 King John chargedthe men of Devon’ 5000 marks (£3333.6s 8d) for the deforestation (i.e. it was no longer reserved as a royal hunting area; it did not mean cutting down trees!) of the entire county up to the ‘regards’ of Dartmoor and Exmoor which remained part of the designated forest. (Pipe Roll 1204, 89). Neither the bishop of Exeter nor the earl of Devon participated in the fine and the King was slow to keep to his side of the bargain, so the situation remained unclear for another thirty years. In the reign of Henry Ill, however, it seems to have been accepted that the whole of the county was outside the forest. (CR, 1227-31, 382). This helped to accelerate its economic development, especially the growth of the woollen and tin industries, and in turn markets and fairs.
2] ‘Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516’ published by List & Index Society, Kew, 2005

Geoffrey died on 2 October 1213. His burial place is unknown, though he had founded Shouldham Priory, Norfolk, a hospital at Sutton de la Hone, Kent, and was a benefactor – ironically perhaps – of the hospital of St Thomas of Acon in the birthplace parish of Thomas Becket in London, originally founded in memory of the archbishop murdered by Geoffrey’s predecessor as lord of Moreton.


The eldest son and heir of Geoffrey FitzPeter, earl of Essex, by his first wife Beatrice, daughter of William de Say and heiress in 1189 of the Mandeville earls of Essex. On his father’s death King John installed him with the whole of the Mandeville inheritance and his father’s custodies but pointedly held back the earldom of Essex to play him off against the de Says and their claim to it.1

1] Rotuli De Oblatis et Finibus ed T Duffy p502-3

The opportunity soon arose in ‘one of his most notorious acts’ in a reign full of dastardly royal moves.1

1] ;D Carpenter

Geoffrey’s marital choices were surprisingly risky. His first marriage was to Maud or Matilda, daughter of Robert FitzWalter, another important Essex landowner and the effective leader of the baronial rebellion against John. Perhaps it was her reputed stunning beauty.

It has been suggested that the female FitzWalter effigy in Little Dunmow church (above), where her father was lord of the manor, marks the burial place of Matilda. According to local folklore FitzWalter alleged that John had attempted to rape his daughter Matilda and following her resistance had seized Matilda and imprisoned her in the Tower of London. Matilda continued to resist John so he sent her an egg filled with poison which she ate and died!
One chronicler, Matthew Paris, described FitzWalter’s daughter as Matilda or Maud the Fair called Maid Marion. However, it was not until a 17th century play that the character became associated with the legend of Maid Marion and Robin Hood.

On Maud’s death without issue, in 1212 he made an even more eye-watering choice of wife that was to have long-term repercussions for his descendants. He married Isabella, third daughter and coheiress of William, earl of Gloucester, and the ex-wife of King John who had their childless marriage declared annulled in 1200 on grounds of consanguinity. The terms on which Geoffrey was to take Isabella were extraordinary. To marry her and to have her lands, except Bristol castle, he was to pay the king an unprecedented fine of 20,000 marks (about £13,666 then); the sum to be paid in four instalments each of 5,000 marks, the last to be handed over in Michaelmas 1214, with the proviso that the king might resume Isabella’s lands if the payments were to fall into arrears. These terms were nothing short of ruinous and quite impossible for the earl to meet.1

 1] Rotuli de Oblatis et Finibus p520-1

Why did Geoffrey submit to this Faustian financial bargain with the king? Certainly he was able to enjoy the revenues of Isabella’s substantial estates for as long as she lived, amounting to roughly 800 marks a year. After his wife’s death, however, he would lose them, as her heirs were the de Clare earls of Hertford. Moreover, there was little prospect of him establishing a new lineage by her as she was well beyond child-bearing age. The most likely explanation for Geoffrey’s submission is that the king threatened to revive the de Say claim to his lands and the earldom of Essex. If this action had succeeded in the courts, Geoffrey would have been left with nothing to his name. He gave in to the king’s financial demands and the de Say claim was thrown out, albeit still not permanently!1

1] Curia Regis Rolls, vii, pp. 110–11; Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum [hereafter RLC], ed. T. D. Hardy, 2 vols. (Record Commission, 1833–34), i, p. 166.

There were soon almost inevitably problems in making the payments:

Geoffrey married Isabella although unwillingly. For which marriage he gave security to the king for paying 10,000 marks and more, which he was never able to pay, and for the payment of which his woods were destroyed and his manors pawned.’1

1] Annales de Dunstaplia in Annales Monastici, iii, p. 45. (The author’s translation)

Did those pawned manors include Moreton?? A later account in the pipe rolls, credited Geoffrey, before the outbreak of the civil war in 1215, with making no less than ten payments totalling some £3582 or 5373 marks, and doubtless much of this was harried from him.1

1] TNA/PRO E 372/ 69, rot. 16 (

In the light both of his grievances against John and of his family connections with Robert FitzWalter, it is not surprising to find Geoffrey on the rebel side in 1215. He was one of the wealthiest of the Barons opposed to King John and in June 1215 after the signing of the Magna Carta he was named to the Council of Twenty-Five to ensure its terms were adhered to – especially perhaps in Geoffrey’s case those dealing with Royal fines made ‘unjustly and against the law of the land’. They parcelled out the government of the country in the autumn, and not surprisingly Geoffrey was assigned responsibility for Essex. When the king tried to renege on his agreement the de Mandeville castle at Pleshey near Chelmsford was besieged by the royal forces. Geoffrey was excommunicated for adhering to the Barons’ party (16/12/1215) and his lands given to Savary de Mauleon.1

The King greets all knights, free men and all others who hold from Geoffrey de Mandeville lands which themselves had appertained to his father and mother. Know that we give with our love and faith to Savary de Malo Leon all the lands and tenements which are the aforesaid Geoffrey’s as the first born child of his father and his mother, excepting the land which William de Mandeville his brother held and which itself appertains to the same first born. And therefore we command you that the same Savary is as if he were the true lord in all situations, legal actions and responses. And in this etc. we pledge you. Witssed by myself at Denstable 20th December in the 17th year of our reign.

And it is commanded to all sheriffs in whose bailiwicks the same Geoffrey had lands and tenements that the same Savary should have full possession without delay of all the lands just as is aforesaid. Given the same place and date.2

1] Savary de was a French soldier who aided the King in the First Barons’ War (1215–1217).
2] Patent Rolls December 20 1215 p161. See also Charter Rolls p223 19 June 1216 – Mauleon given Manor and honour of Berkhamstead & Aylesbury.

‘The first item in the show (our poster boy, of course) is this statue of Geoffrey de Mandeville (one of the barons who rebelled against King John in 1215), on loan from the Houses of Parliament .’ ( for the British Library’s 2015 Magna Carta 800th centenary exhibition)

Two months later Geoffrey met his death by accident with a French knight at a tournament held in London by those the rebels supporting Prince Louis of France’s claim to the throne. and was buried in Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate in London. His widow Isabel was remarried to Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent but died within weeks of the wedding.

Inverted arms of Geofffrey fitz Geoffrey with a broken lance symbolizing his excommunication in 1215 and his death in 1216.
(Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora – Royal MS 14 C VII, ff 157r-231r)


William, born about 1186, was the 2nd son of Geoffrey FitzPiers, 1st Earl of Essex of the 2nd creation and Beatrice de Say (d. 1197). As he came of age he acquired lands but he and they soon became caught up in the political turmoil of King John’s later years.

On November 4th 1213 he had already had livery of lands in Essex, formerly belonging to Robert FitzErneis, to hold as his late father had held them and the next day had livery of his late father’s manor of Wellesworth, Hampshire.1

1] Cl.15 Joh.p 2.m 5

He must have also held land in Devon. Like his brother, Wiliam married a daughter of Robert FitzWalter the leader of the baronial rebellion against John, and when he also espoused the cause of his father-in-law his Devon lands were confiscated:

The king greets the sheriff of Devon. Be it known that we are giving back to our faithful subject Henry fitz Count all the lands that William de Mandeville held of him in your bailiwick. And therefore we command that you cause the same Henry to have the aforesaid lands without delay. Witnessed by myself at Trowbridge May 14th [1215].’1

1] CL 14/5/1215 p. 200

It is not known if these lands in the ‘bailiwick’ of the Sheriff of Devon included Moreton as we have no evidence of his brother’s involvement with Moreton – in any case all his brother’s lands were also confiscated as noted above. There must have also been a brief period of reconciliation with the king because all his lands in Dorset, Essex, Hampshire and Norfolk were confiscated between the autumn of 1215 and the spring of 1216.1 His Devon lands were again granted to Henry fitz Count in December 1215.2 Excommunication with his brother Geoffrey was enacted by Pope Innocent III about the same time.3 At the end of John’s 17th year as king in late May 1216 on a list of twenty ‘names of those who took up arms in the war against the lord king’, Geoffrey and William de Mandeville were the first two names listed.4

1] Cl.17 Joh.m 19; Cl.17 Joh.m 17; Cl.17 Joh.m 5
2] CL 14/12/1215 p. 242
3] Matthew Paris, re-edited St Alban’s Chronicle of England, Vol. II, ed. H R Luard 1874, p. 643

4] Close Rolls John 17 Vol 1 pp270b 1833 Record Commission

After his brother’s death in February 1216 there is clear evidence that William held Moreton, albeit because he had it confiscated:

We command the Sheriff of Devon to let Henry de Franchedney have all the land with all its appurtenances in Moreton that was granted to William de Mandeville by the lord King.  Witnessed there May 6th [1216].’1

1] CL 17 John p. 2 m. 2

After the death of King John in October 1216, William supported Prince Louis of France’s attempt to claim the throne as a maternal grandson of Henry II. At the siege of Berkhamstead Castle, occupied by the king’s forces, a sally from the garrison, seized much of the baggage of the besiegers including the banner of the Earl William.1

1] Sir Bernard Burke, Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited and Extinct Peerages, Burke’s Peerage, Ltd., London, England, 1883, p. 353, Mandeville, Earls of Essex)

King John of England in battle with the Francs (left), Prince Louis VIII of France on the march (right). (British Library, Royal 16 G VI f. 385)

Like his forebears William proved to be a political survivor and having returned to fealty, on October 4th 1217, he was restored to all the lands which his brother had held on the day he receded from his fealty:

William de Mandeville has returned to the fealty and service of the lord King and has letters making him in entail possession of his lands which his brother Geoffrey de Mandeville had in that respect on the day when he withdrew from the fealty and service of the lord King John the father of the Lord King and the letters are directed to the Sheriffs of Devon, Dorset, Southampton, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Essex, Canterbury, Oxford, Lincoln, York, Nottingham, Northampton, Gloucester, Hugh de Vivon, and Eleanor {?} de Perar.’1

1] CL 1 Henry III Vol. 1 p. 327

In fact it was another two years before he fully regained Moreton as the two festering issues plaguing the Mandeville inheritance intervened again.

Firstly, the Regents of Henry III saddled him (no account as yet being taken of any payments and assignments) with the whole of Geoffrey’s 20,000 marks debt for the hand of Isabella of Gloucester. Taken narrowly, this was perfectly legal for Geoffrey’s original fine had not merely offered no let out in the event of Isabella’s death. It had also offered none to his heirs in the event of Geoffrey’s. The debt, however, had become all the more extraordinary, for William found himself liable for a vast sum from which he had received absolutely no benefit. He had no connection with the Gloucester estates which were now controlled first by Isabella as a widow, then by her next husband, Hubert de Burgh, and finally, on Isabella’s death in October 1217, by her heir Gilbert de Clare earl of Hertford. William de Mandeville was to liquidate the 10,000 marks debt at the rate of 150 marks a year. Fortunately for Moreton and his other possessions, the money was to be drawn annually only from the revenues of two Mandeville manors in Essex.1

1] For a detailed discussion of this issue see

William, was in no position to resist for he was at that very time facing the other issue bedeviling the Mandevilles – a renewed attempt by the Says to recover the Mandeville inheritance. It was heard in the courts between 1217and 1219 but no decision was made while the king was a minor and in the meantime he could receive back his lands.

The regrant of his lands, however, suggests that there had been some additional issues in the case of Moreton:

Concerning the manor of Morton. The King greets the Sheriff of Devon. Know that we have released to William de Mandeville Earl of Essex, by [the agency of] William Earl Warren and John Marshal, his manor of Moreton that was taken into our hand. It was recognised by the sworn homage of our Teignbridge Hundred at the last itinerant circuit of our Justices in your county that the men of that manor should owe suit to our aforesaid Hundred of Teignbridge which they have not done and instead made claim that the same men do not owe what the same Earl says [they do].

In respect of which we have arranged a day for the same Earl concerning this suit before our Justices at Westminster on Michaelmas day in three weeks [time]. And therefore we have ordered yourself to be there before our aforesaid Justices to certify that that of which they accused happened in your County. We order that Jocelin Lord Bishop of Bath and his associates our itinerant Justices in the same County should have before our aforesaid Justices at Westminster on the day that presentment under oath of the homage of the aforesaid Hundred that was made before them about the aforesaid service. Meanwhile therefore William Earl of Essex is permitted to have his manor of Morton in peace and to have also this writ.Witnessed on the date [i.e. 19/9/1219] as above by the same [Hubert de Burgo Justiciar].’1

1] Close Rolls Henry III’s September 19th 1219 Vol I p400 1833 Record Commission

This suggests that Moretonians had been in involved in some sort of rebellion. Unfortunately, no details so far have been found and the matter was obviously cleared up and William soon appeared in the first recorded action taken by a lord on behalf of Moreton manor. It marked the start of a long-running rivalry with the neighbouring manor of Chagford. In order to protect his market in Morton, William challenged the right of Hugh, manorial lord of Chagford, to hold a market there:

‘Hugh of Chagford was summoned to show by what authority he had set up a market at Chagford to the detriment of Earl William de Mandeville’s market in Moreton, without the licence of the lord king. And Hugh came and pleaded that he had not set up a market as had been said, because his market had been set up a hundred years ago whereas the earl’s market was started five years ago. And both were on Sundays until, out of respect for the faith, they were moved to Saturdays.

And Earl William declared through his attorney that the same Hugh never had a market at Chagford, although a few people sometimes met on Sundays and bread, and meat, and the like were sold. Subsequently the earl’s father, Geoffrey Fitz Piers, came and spoke with John the lord king, so that the lord king gave him a market in Moreton where previously there used to be an assembly like the one at Chagford. And then the lord king prohibited the assembly and market at Chagford so that at the beginning of the (civil) war there was no assembly or market at Chagford, but only during and on account of the (civil) war.

And Hugh said that his market had been established many years before the earl’s market, and he pleaded that he had never received a prohibition such as had been described. Then he declared on oath that he had taken toll and stallage in the market as appropriate, and he always had done so. And the earl pleaded that Hugh had never taken tolls except after the (civil) war. And the earl threw himself on the jury, and Hugh did the same.

Then the sheriff ordered an inquiry to be made by free and lawful men of Chagford and Moreton as to whether:

There had been in Chagford a market receiving tolls, stallage, and other customs pertinent to a market before John the lord king granted a market in Moreton to Geoffrey Fitz Piers, earl of Essex.

And whether Hugh of Chagford had received the aforesaid dues of the aforesaid market of Chagford before the (civil) war etc..

And the inquiry should be held on the Sunday before Ascension Day by letters under his (the sheriff’s) seal and the coroner’s seal; etc..

And Hugh nominated Gervase Fitz Henry as his attorney.’1

As W G Hoskins commented:

‘We do not know the upshot of this case, but even so it tells us something of value. We know that Moreton did in fact receive a grant of a weekly market in the year 1207. The Moreton case is particularly interesting also as showing the development of a regular chartered market out of a casual assembly of sellers and buyers at a very early date, and the grant of 1207 antedates by a long way the grant made to Hugh de Courtenay (in 1334) which was presumably only a confirmation.’2

1] Curia Regis Roll 72, Hilary Term, 4 Henry III, 1219
2] Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries Vol. XXIII pp21-2

We know of one other action by William concerning Moreton. It appears that he alienated the part of the manor on the wetsern side of the main settlement:


Ely Foorde to whom William Mandeville, earl of Essex gave Foorde part of the manor of Morton in Co. Devon.1

The family chart in the same source shows that the granted land passed through another nine generations of Foorde before a daughter and heir Margery married ‘John Charles of Morton in Devon, gent.’ in the late 15th century.2 Its extent in 1523 was recorded as ‘3 messuages, 100 acres of land, 20 of meadow, 40 of pasture and 40 of heath.3 The name still survives today with Ford St on the west side of the town (see photo below).

1] The visitations of the county of Devon :Comprising the herald’s visitations of 1531, 1564, & 1620 / With additions by Lieutenant-Colonel J. L. Vivian. p. 168
2] ibid.
3] See

Ford St in the 1950s. The Ford Barton was at the far end.

William served Henry III loyally for the rest of his life, including an engagement against Llewellyn in Wales1 and a spell as Ambassador to France.2

1] Patent Rolls 7 Hen.3.m 2d
2] Patent Rolls 9 Hen.3.m 4d

William died in late 1226 or early 1227. His heart was buried in Walden Abbey, Saffron Walden (his birthplace) while his body was buried at Shouldham Priory, Downham, Norfolk which his father had founded.

On 11 February 1225, King Henry III issued what became the final and definitive version of Magna Carta. It is clauses of the 1225 charter, not the charter of 1215, which are on the Statute Book of the United Kingdom today. One of the witnesses to the 1225 Charter was William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex (see underlined name on first line of extract shown in inset above with the seal of King Henry III appended).
(British Library Additional MS 46144)


As William left no issue, the Earldom of Essex devolved upon his sister, Mary or Maud (d.1236), Countess of Hereford, while the lands which he inherited including Moreton passed to his half-brother, John fitz Geoffrey (aka John FitzPiers) for a fine of 300 marks.1 John was the son of Geoffrey fitz Peter, fourth earl of Essex, justiciar of England (d. 1213), and his second wife, Aveline, daughter of Roger de Clare, earl of Hertford.

‘3 June 1227. For John fitz Geoffrey. John fitz Geoffrey has made fine with the king by 300 m[arks] for having seisin of the lands formerly of Geoffrey fitz Peter, formerly earl of Essex, his father, which fall to him by inheritance and of which W[illiam] earl of Essex, brother of the same John, later had seisin and died seised, and the king has taken his homage. Order to the sheriff of Buckinghamshire to cause John to have full seisin of all lands that the abovesaid G[eoffrey] had in his bailiwick and of which Earl W[illiam] later died seised, as aforesaid…’

The sheriffs of eight other counties and London, including Devon, received the same order. The castle and honour of Berkhamsted (except Winterslow in Wiltshire) remained in the hands of the king.

1] Fine Rolls of 11 HENRY III 28 October 1226-27 October 1227 Membrane 5 p158

William’s sister Matilda, widow of the earl of Hereford, had married Wiltshire knight, Roger of Dauntsey (aka de Antes) and he encouraged her to challenge Geoffrey’s inheritance, including Moreton.

‘For John Fitz Geoffrey. It is ordered by John de Muleton and his fellow justices in the county of Devon that the action between Roger de Antes and his wife, the plaintiffs, and John Fitz Geoffrey holding a tenement in Moreton shall be held in the court of justices in Westminster in 15 days from St. Michael’s Day.’

The settlement in John’s favour was announced two years later:

‘Devon: Between John son of Geoffrey, plaintiff and Roger Dantesy and Matilda his wife [and the sister of John Fitz Geoffrey; …. (inter alia) …..being an agreement between John and Matilda, the issue and heirs of Geoffrey Fitz Piers deceased, as to the division of the estates of the deceased…….  etc ……  John Fitz Geoffrey retains 35/- rents out of Moreton Recognizance of an assize of mort d’ancestor was summoned .’

There were other claimsagainst John in Moreton that had to be settled:

‘For Geoffrey Ie Breton. The Sheriff of Devon is ordered to make over to Geoffrey Ie Breton such possession in his land in Moreton as he had on the day when he (the sheriff) ordered that land to be taken into the king’s hands on the occasion of the death of William de Mandeville, earl of Essex, and that which he then took he should return to him.’

Another claim has no known outcome:

‘Devon. Simon de Furnell appointed Henry Dublepere as his attorney against plaintiff & lord of the manor John Fitz John concerning customs & services in Moreton.’