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the ground that Edward the Confessor had named him as his heir, but
this could not be proved. They were cousins, but William had no Saxon
blood in his veins. The battle of Hastings was the first step towards the
Conquest of England, but that conquest did not extend to the eastern or
northern counties till six or seven years after. William returned from
the field of triumph to Hastings, where he remained a few days, hoping
that the English would come and ofier him the crown, but he was doomed
to disappointment for the Londoners put their city in a state of defence.

In a short time, the English nobles despaired of restoring the old
monarchy and sent a deputation of influential persons to William, then
at Berkhampstead, ofiering him the crown. He accepted it, and they
swore allegiance to him, while he on his part pledged himself to maintain
the rights and possessions of those who submitted to him. After he was
crowned on Christmas Day, 106G, he would not reside in London tiU a
new fortress was erected, but retired to Barking in Essex, where Edwin
and Morcar, Copsi or Coxo, and other English nobles, rendered him
homage. The King^s early proceedings were on the whole conciliatory,
but his grants to his followers, prepared the way for arrogance on the one
side and disaffection on the other, more especially in the eastern counties,
where nearly all the English nobles who had been adherents of Harold
were driven out of their lands.

A period now opens in the history of the eastern counties that is full
of interest and the most momentous events, a period in which the East
Angles were driven out of their possessions. Numerous churches,
monasteries, and other religious houses, sprung up as it were out of the
dust of castle and palace, and covered thousands of acres of land.


Mansions^ churches, and castles were no longer to be plundered by Danish
marauders, or by internecme wars, but after one great conquest, civil and
ecclesiastical government were to hold sway over all England.

Whilst the Isle of Ely was held by the English nobility against the
Conqueror, that monarch built a castle at Cambridge, on the site as is
supposed of a Danish fortress ; but if so, it appears that it was on a more
extended scale, for it is stated in the survey of Domesday that
twenty-seven houses were destroyed for that purpose. In 1088, Cambridge
was again destined to feel the effects of civil war, being laid waste with
fire and sword by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, in support
of the cause of Robert Curthose. The Normans had now been seven
years in the land, engaged in almost constant hostihties, and at length
England, with the exception of the eastern counties might be said to be
conquered. In most abridgements of history, the events of this period
are so faintly indicated, as to leave an impression that the resistance of
the English was trifling and brief. Nothing can be more fallacious than
this impression, or more unfair to our English ancestors. This will appear
in the sequel.

We must now direct the attention of the reader to the Saxon Camp of
Refuge near Ely, to which many of the dispossessed men of Norfolk,
Suffolk, and Cambridge, fled for safety. In 1070 these three counties
were like a vast common, covered with bogs and marshes. A wide extent
of lowland spread out from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, interspersed
by rivers in every direction. Most of the rivers in the centre of England
flowed into these marshes, and thence into the Wash of Lincoln. A
portion of this great swamp was called the Isle of Ely, another part the
Isle of Thorney, and a third the Isle of Croyland. There were no moun-
tains or defiles, but the district was in good part a swamp, on which no
cavalry could tread. It was watered in all directions by rivers and
streams and broad meres, and the few roads that led through this dangerous
labyrinth, were little known to the Normans. The country, too, where
the banner of independence floated was a sort of holy laud to the English,
as it included the abbeys of Ely, Peterborough, Thorney, and Croyland.

This district had more than once formed a place of refuge for the
Saxons during the Danish invasions, and it was again the rendezvous of
bands of East Anglian and other patriots, who constructed an extensive
armed station and defied their enemies.

Archbishop Stigand and Bishop Eghelwin quitted Scotland for this
place. Morcar, after having wandered for some time in the forests also
came hither, with other chiefs. The King, who had just succeeded by his
craft alone in dissolving the conspiracy of the patriot priests, essayed
craft once more, and Morcar having surrendered himself was put iti prison.


About 1071, a Saxon hero named Here ward kept liis father's house
at Bourn,, near Ely^ and settled in Flanders. Some English emigrants
who had fled from their native land^ informed him of his father's death,
and that a Norman had possession of his paternal inheritance. He
returned to England, reached Bourn, drove out the Normans, and took
possession of his estate. Afterwards he was compelled to join his
countrymen in the camp at Ely, and he waged warfare with the Normans
all around.

To remove these enemies Turold purchased the services of Ivo Tailbois,
to whom the Conqueror had given the district of Croyland. Confident of
success, the abbot and the Norman commenced the expedition with a
numerous body of cavalry. But nothing could elude the vigilance of
Hereward. As Tailbois entered one side of a thick wood, the chieftain
issued from the other ; darted unexpectedly upon Turold, and carried him
off with several other Normans, whom he put in prison and kept there
till ransomed.

For awhile the pride of William disdained to notice the efforts of
Hereward, but when Morcar and most of the exiles from Scotland had
joined that chieftain, prudence compelled him to crush the hydra before
it could grow to maturity. He stationed his fleet in the Wash, with orders
to observe every outlet fi'om the fens to the ocean ; by land he distributed
his forces in such a manner as to render escape almost impossible. Still
the great difficulty remained to reach the enemy who had retired to their
fortress, situated in an expanse of water which in the narrowest part was
more than two miles in breadth. The King undertook to construct a
solid road across the marshes and to throw several bridges over the
channels of the rivers, a work of great labour and of equal danger in the
face of a vigilant and enterprising enemy. Hereward frequently dispersed
the workmen ; and his attacks were so sudden, so incessant and so destruc-
tive, that the Normans attributed his success to the assistance of Satan.

At the instigation of Tailbois, the King had the weakness to employ a
sorceress, who was expected by the superior efficacy of her spells to
defeat those of the English magicians. She was placed in a wooden
turret at the head of the work, but Hereward who had watched his
opportunity, set fire to the dry reeds in the vicinity, the wind rapidly
spread the conflagration, and the enchantress with her guards, the turret
with the workmen, were enveloped and consumed in the flames.

When the Isle of Ely had been, blockaded three months, provisions
became scarce there. Those whose professions and vowed duties included
frequent fasting, were the first to become very impatient under privation.
The monks of Ely sent to the camp of the enemy, a message ofiering to
show a safe passage across the fens, if the King would promise to leave


them in uudisturbed possession of tlieii* houses and lands. Tho King
agreed to the condition, and two of his barons pledged their faith for the
execution of the treaty. Under proper guides the Normans then found
their way into the Isle of Ely, and took possession of the strong mon-
astery which formed part of Hereward's line of defence. They killed
1,000 Englishmen who either occupied an advanced position or had made
a sortie, and then closing round the Camp of Refuge, they finally
obliged the rest to lay down their arms. The greater number of them
voluntarily submitted to the royal mercy. Their fate was different.
Some of these brave men were liberated on paying heavy fines or
ransoms, some were put to death, some deprived of their sight, some
rendered unfit for war, by having a right hand or foot cut off; some were
condeinned to perpetual imprisonment. Hereward, the soul of the con-
federacy, would not submit, but making an effort which appeared desperate
to all, rushed from the camp and escaped over the marshes, where the
Normans dare not follow him. Passing from fen to fen he gained the
low swampy lands in Lincolnshire, near his own estate, where he was
joined by some friends, and renewed a guerilla warfare, which lasted four
or five years, and cost the Normans many lives, but which could not under
existing circumstances produce any great political result. At last, seeing
the hopelessness of the struggle, he listened to terms from the King, who
was anxious to pacify an enemy his armies could never reach, and who
probably admired in a soldier his wonderful courage and address. Here-
ward made his peace with the King, took the oath of allegiance and was
permitted by the Conqueror to preserve and enjoy the estates of his
ancestors. The exploits of the last hero of English independence formed
a favourite theme of poetry and tradition, and long after his death, the
inhabitants of the Isle of Ely, showed with pride the ruins of a timber
tower, which they called the Castle of Hereward. If the rest of the
English had then been as brave as this hero, the Normans would never
have got possession of the eastern counties.

Wilham I. being firmly seated on the throne of England, thought it
high time to fleece his Norman subjects as he had pillaged the Saxons
before. In the year 1080, therefore, he appointed commissioners to
repair to the different counties and make a general survey of the country,
resolving to procure the minutest information respecting the value of the
lands, goods, and chattels possessed by every individual, that he might
know exactly what impositions every one could bear. This register was
called Domesday Book, and although calculated for unbounded oppres-
sion and once the dread of all England, yet it is now resorted to with
pleasure, and consulted by the lovers of antiquity as the grand oracle of
English chorography.


England presented the singular spectacle of a native population with a
foreign sovereigUj a foreign nobility^ and a foreign hierarchy. The King
was a Norman despot ; the bishops and principal abbots were Normans,
intent only on their own aggrandisement, and after the death of Waltheof,
every earl and every powerful vassal of the crown was a Norman. Each
of them to guard against the disaffection of the natives surrounded himself
with foreigners who alone were the objects of his patronage, while the
despised native English were treated like beasts of burden. It should,
however, be observed that the Norman nobles were as prodigal as they
were rapacious. Their vanity was flattered by the number and wealth of
their retainers, whose services they purchased and requited with the most
liberal donations. Hence the estates which they received from the King,
they doled out to their followers in such proportions as were reciprocally

By Domesday Book it appears that ninety landowners of Essex
were deprived of their lands by the Conqueror, during whose reign the
government of the country and of every county underwent considerable
changes. Norman barons tyrannized over Essex, and they built castles
on their estates for personal security and to overawe their dependent vassals.
Formerly twelve castles stood in Essex, and four of them were called
royal castles, being built for national security. These were at Colchester,
Hadleigh, Languard Fort, and Tilbury Fort. "IChere is no especial record
of the changes in Essex after the conquest, but we may form some idea
of the extent of the confiscation by imagining all the noble families in
the county whose names are so familiar to us, and all the long roll of the
county squires turned from their homes into the highways, exposed to the
contempt of invading French soldiers, whose officers took forcible
possession of the ancient castles and halls and all the estates. This was
the character of the revolution effected in Essex and in all the eastern
counties. Suspicion of any feeling hostile to the Conqueror was taken
as a positive proof of guilt by the commissioners, whose friends and
relatives were waiting for the property confiscated. " Ancient and honour-
able families were reduced to beggary," says the historian before referred
to, and in Domesday Book, made a few years after, we do not find in
the roll of the landowners of Essex, a single name that carries with it a
Saxon sound. The burgesses of the towns escaped more easily. They
were felt to be necessary, because the military Norman could not stoop
to trade. The common people, too, "were not massacred but protected;"
but then as they had nothing to lose, and were looked upon as part of the
stock of the manor, necessary to cultivate the estate for the new owner,
there was no magnanimity in this sort of mercy. The conquest did not
materially alter the state of slavery in the county; the land was transferred


to Norman masters and the slaves went with them. Amongst those who
shared the landed spoils of the connty were the King's brother, Odo,
Bishop of Bayeux, " the mitred plunderer," as he has been called, who
was presented with thirty-nine of the Essex lordships ; Eustace, the Earl
of Boulogne, received amongst other possessions the manor of Bundish
Hall, Radwinter, parts of the lands at Ashdon, with the manor of
Newnham ; the greater part of the parish of Elmdon ; the parish of
Crishall ; the lordship of Chipping Ongar ; the parishes of Tryfield and
Lambourn ; Standford Rivers Hall ; lands in Harlow and Latton ; and
the manor of Great Parndon. William de Warrenne took the parishes of
Little Wenden and Leorden Roothing ; two manors in High and Aythorp
Roothing, which the Conqueror wrested from the monastery of Ely,
because it sheltered some English who would not submit to him ; a manor
in Little Canfield, Househam Hale, in Matching ; and other large posses-
sions. Eudo Dupifer, a son of the King's steward, who became a great
friend and patron of the town of Colchester, had for his portion lands
and houses in that borough, with twenty-five lordships, spreading over
the parishes of Henham, Takely, Quenden, Arkesdon, Norton Mandeville,
Kelvedon, Hatch, Greenstead Hall, near Ongar ; the manor of Folly, at
Great Dunmore, &c. Geoffrey de Mandeville received the lordship of
Walden, and was the first who gave life to that place ; lands and a manor
in Henham ; the manors of Fernham and Walkers, in Farnham ; Newton
Hall and Bigods, Great Dunmow ; the lands of Little Easton ; the parish
of Mashbury ; Rookward Hall, in Abbess Roothing ; Shelly Hall ; Stock
Hall, Matching ; with other manors, spread over various parts of the
county, amounting altogether to forty lordships. Robert Gernon had
the whole of Stansted Mountfitchet, and built a castle there ; to which
were attached the lordships of Springfield, Margaretting, Easthorp, Birch,
Wivenhoe, Leyton, East and West Ham, Chingford, Chigwell, &c. : he
took the surname of Mountfitchet from his chief seat. Alberic de Vere,
who founded the mighty earldom of Oxford, received lands and manors
in Radwinter, Wimbish, Ugley, and Canfield ; the manor of Garnish Hall ;
Margaret Roothing ; Down Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak ; with the castle and
parish of Great Canfield, besides large possessions around Hedingham,
where he settled and reared his baronial castle. Ralph Baynard obtained
lands about Wimbish, Henham, and Wenden Tofts; Ralph Peverel, at
Hatfield, Debden, Chickney, &c. Suene had the great barony of Rayleigh,
where according to the custom of most of the new comers, he built a
castle, and his other possessions included the half hundred of Clavcring,
the lordship of Hill Hall, Theydon, and Little Hallingbury Hall. Thus
grim warriors, palace favourites, some of the meanest birth and lowest
stations, one at least who took off the King's hands his concubine when


lie was tired of her, became the lords of Essex, and occupied its castles
and manors. Of all the ninety owners of the soil whose names are given
in Domesday Book, not one of them is that of an old proprietor, save
perhaps that of Suene, the Dane, who having adroitly trimmed his sails
and tacked about when William landed, was permitted to retain his estates,
and became the first sheriff after the conquest. A few of the names in
that ancient roll have something of a Saxon sound, but we shall find, says
Morant, " if we look into the places where they are mentioned, that they
had the estates of Saxons dispossessed.^'

When the Normans under William I. extended their marches to
Norfolk they found the citizens of Norwich, the descendants of the
Angles and Danes, prepared to offer a formidable resistance. The city
was besieged, and in the siege a large proportion of the houses were
destroyed, and large numbers of the citizens were killed. Still, when
twenty years after the return was made of the number of burgesses in
the town, it was found to be 1565 who were paying public customs, while
there were in addition 480 cottagers whose poverty obtained for them
exemption from the payment of local taxes. The Crown dues were
augmented, for the inhabitants now paid twenty pounds weight of silver
to the King, 100 shillings as a free gift to the Queen, with an ambling
palfrey and twenty shillings as a free gift to Godfric. The population
having so much increased, a new borough was added to the old one,
comprising the pleasantest part of the locality, where thirty-six French
burgesses and six English burgesses had their abodes.

The government of Norwich and Norfolk was vested in Roger Bigod,
the earl who, seated in the Castle, had supreme power over the inhabitants.
Under him, the sheriff collected the royal dues, two-thirds of which were
paid over to the King's treasury, and one to the earl. At this time, the
Castle ruled the city in all things, and the local self-government in civil
affairs was now suspended. The citizens were also compelled to serve as
soldiers when occasion required, and were consequently involved in all the
ill-fortune which attended the Norman baron who forced them to do
military duty. This will appear from the following event : —


At Norwich a fatal marriage in high life was followed by dreadful
consequences, sieges, battles, and violent deaths of all the parties con-
cerned. William Fitz Osbern was the father of the two parties. He was
the seneschal of Normandy, the chief promoter of the invasion of
England, and actor in that enterprise, by which he obtained extensive
domains and the earldom of Hereford. He was one of the greatest


oppressors of tlie English, many of whom he killed with the sword.
After the conquest, he returned to his native country.

A-bout 1074, William Fitz Osbern died a violent death in Flanders,
where a love affair had involved him in political intrigues. The eldest of
his sons, who bore the same name with himself, inherited his lands in
Normandy, and Koger, the youngest, had the domains conquered in
England, with the earldom of Hereford. He took upon himself the
charge of providing for and portioning his youngest sister named
Emma, and negotiatied a marriage for her with Eaulf de Gael, a
Breton seigneur, who had been appointed Earl of Norfolk by right of
the sword.

For some reason or other this alliance was displeasing to the King, who
was then in Normandy, and he sent an express order not to conclude it,
but the parties paid no heed to this prohibition, and on the day fixed for
the ceremony the bride was conducted to Norwich, where the marriage
was celebrated in grand style, and it was followed by a banquet in the
castle. Bishops and Norman barons were there, also Saxons, friends of
the Normans, and even several Welshmen, invited by the Earl of Hereford ;
Waltheof, the great Earl of Northumberland, the Earl of Northampton,
and others.

After a sumptuous repast, whereat the wine flowed in abundance, the
tongues of the guests became loosened. Roger de Hereford loudly
censured the King for refusing to sanction this union between his sister
and the Earl of Norfolk ; he complained of this as an insult to his father,
the man to whom the bastard, he said, owed his conquest and his kingdom.
The Saxons, who had been ill-treated by William, vehemently applauded
the invectives of the Norman Earl, and all present joined in a tumult
of execration of the King. " He is a bastardy a man of low birth,'^ said
the Normans ; " he may call himself a King, but il. is clearly seen that he
is not made for one, and that he is not agreeable in the sight of God."
The Bretons cried, " He poisoned Conan, the brave Earl of Brittany, for
whom our country still mourns." In their turn the Saxons exclaimed,
'' He invaded the noble land of England, he massacred the legitimate heirs,
or obliged them to expatriate themselves." Then the foreigners cried,
" And those who came in his train or to his assistance, those who raised
him higher than any of his predecessors, have not been honoured by him
as they ought to have been ; he is ungrateful to the brave men who shed
their blood in his ser\4ce. What has he given to us the conquerors who
are covered with wounds ? Sterile tracts of land, all devastated ; and
when he sees our fiefs are improving he deprives us of them.'^ All the
guests exclaimed, " 'Tis true, 'tis true ; he is odious to us all, and his
death would gladden the hearts of us all."


One of the Norman Earls then rose, and addressing Waltheof, said,
" Brave man, this is the moment, this is for the hour of vengeance and
fortune. Join us, and we will re-establish the kingdom of England, in
every respect, as it was in the time of King Edward. One of us three
shall be King, the other two shall command under him, and all the lord-
ships of the kingdom shall be held of us. William is occupied beyond
sea with interminable affairs, we are satisfied that he will not again cross
the Channel. Now brave warriors adopt this plan ; ^tis the best for thee,
and thy family, and thy fallen nation/^ New acclamations arose at these

The Earl of Hereford and others, already committed by carrying the
forbidden marriage into effect, became eloquent and bold in their language
and designs until a chorus of excited voices joined them in oaths that
sealed them as conspirators against their absent sovereign. Treachery
revealed the plot, and the church lent its aid to the crown to crush the
rebels. Waltheof, who had thought over the matter with his head on his
pillow, perceiving the danger, began to be afraid, went the next day to
Archbishop Lanfranc, who was guardian of the realm in the King's
absence, and divulged the plot to him, by whose advice he went over to
Normandy and showed the whole to the King. The Earls of Norfolk
and Hereford finding that they were betrayed, betook themselves to arms
as desperate men, and endeavoured to join their forces, to oppose the troops
Lanfranc sent against them. The primate, who acted under the title of
royal lieutenant, hurled a sentence of excommunication against Roger
de Hereford, couched in the following terms : — " Since thou hast departed
from the rules of conduct observed by thy father, hast renounced the
faith that he all his life preserved towards his lord, and which gained him
such great riches, in virtue of my canonical authority, I curse thee,
excommunicate thee, and exclude thee from the threshold of the church
and the society of the faithful."

Eoger de Hereford hastened to his province to collect his friends, and
engaged in his cause many of the Welsh of the borders, who joined him
either for pay or out of hatred to the Conqueror, who menaced their
independence. As soon as Earl Roger had assembled his forces, he
marched towards the east, where the other conspirators awaited him. But
when about to pass the Severn at the bridge of Worcester, he found that
formidable preparations had been made to stop him, and before he could
find another passage, the Norman Ours, Viscount of Worcester and

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 70)