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counties only half-a-million. Only a small part of the land was cultivated,


aud large tracts were great forests. The early form of Euglisli Avas
spoken by the bulk of the oppressed people^ but Normau-French by the
nobility and gentry. The names of all animals while alive were Anglo-
Saxon^ but when killed and prepared for food were Norman. Thus ox,
steer, cow are Saxon, but beef Norman ; calf is Saxon, but veal Norman ;
sheep is Saxon, but mutton Norman -French. So it is severally with
swine and pork, deer and venison, fowl and pullet. Bacon is the only
exception, and on it the peasantry feed to the present day when they can
get it. The towns were nearly all of small size, the streets narrow, the
houses of timber and the roofs of thatch. London, Bristol, and Exeter
wei-e large towns, but Norwich, Ipswich, and all the towns in the eastern
counties were small places. Norwich contained only 1500 burgesses or
freemen, all the other men being slaves. The city rose gradually round a
castle, that frowned in feudal grandeur over the whole district. Yarmouth
was only a small fishing station that had just emerged from the waves.
Most of the towns were built near rivers for the sake of inland naviga-
tion. All the roads were in a bad state, and infested with robbers. Much
of the internal trade was carried on at markets or fairs. The fairs were
holidays in the earliest ages of the church. The markets and fairs were
often held in churchyards, and continued to be so till prohibited in the
reign of Edward I., in the thirteenth century. These markets and fairs
have continued ever since on the same days in most of the towns of the
eastern counties. For a long time the fairs were held for the sale of
horses, cattle, sheep, manufactures, and all sorts of goods, which were
bought by the common people for their use all the 3'ear round.

The fair days were holydays in the earliest ages of the church (as the
derivation from the Latin /cr/a, a festival, indicates), and were often held
on Sunday ; but in the lapse of time busmess was transacted at them all
over East Anglia, and the place of sale was generally in the vicinity of
the church, sometimes in the churchyard, and when it was subsequently
removed to an open space in the town, a market cross was erected to
remind persons that on becoming traders, they did not cease to be

From the tenth to the sixteenth century, money was nearly ten times
its present value, and after the sixteenth century nearly equal to the
present time. The following were the prices of various articles at
different periods of time, estimated according to the present value of
money : — In 930 a sheep 12s. Gd., the fleece 5s., an ox 75s., a cow 50s., a
horse £18. In 966 an acre of land 10s., a palfrey £6. In 980 an ox 75s.,
a cow £3. In 1252 a good horse £15. In 1327 a lean ox 48s., fat 72s.,
a fat hog two years old 10s., a fat wether sheep unshom 5s., shorn 3s. 6d.,
a fat goose 74d., a fat capon 6d., a fat heu 3d., two chickens 3d.



The names only have been preserved of many Kings, thanes, and
county families that lived in the Anglo-Saxon period. As already stated,
the Anglo-Saxons and Danes who had exterminated the aborigines, were
in their turn expelled by the Normans, who took possession of their lands.
The Norman warriors, not content with the grants of the Conqueror,
often invaded the lands of the East Anglian thanes, who had made their
peace with the King, and took forcible possession of very large estates in
the western counties.

After the Norman conquest, for nearly a century the more eminent
men in Norfolk and Suffolk were grim warriors who came over with the
Conqueror, or their immediate descendants, the De Warrennes, the Bigods,
the TEstranges, the Walters, the Albinis, the Rainalds, the Bainards, the
Ferrars, the Giffards, the Godrics, and many others, who built strong
castles, in which they lived, and who made a great figure in an iron age.
Most of them soon disaj)peared from this earthly scene.

The records that remain to us of the more powerful families that in an
early age constituted a portion of the ancient nobles of our land, are
extremely scanty, as might be expected from the imperfect chronicles
relating to the period in which they flourished. Unless their names occur
in connection with the stirring events of the times which are matters of
public history it is rarely that they occupy a position sufficiently prominent
to attract the attention of the chronicler, and the biogi'apher is able to
glean at best only a faint outline of characters which from their import-
ance in some respects would seem to require detailed statement. This
circumstance is of little consequence in some cases, in which the quality
of the information obtained will scarcely repay the labour of research to
the curious inquirer, and however he may delight to pore over musty
tomes, the issue will often be disappointment as the ideal attributes of
nobility and distinction with which eager imagination is prone to invest
its favourite hero, are scattered to the winds by the glaring evidence of
moral turpitude. We may nevertheless cling to the hope that if the
worst traits of character are recorded, it is because these alone have
attracted the notice of the historian, for as Shakespeare says : —

Tlic evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred Avith their hones.

Before we proceed to notice the great men and county families of this
Norman period, it may be interesting to glance at the general character


and customs of those ancient barons who occupy so prominent a station
in the early annals of our history. They were a very chivah-ous race in
the ago of chivahy, insomuch at least as the term implies considerable
military skilly personal courage^ hardihood and independent spirit ; but
in the higher qualities of chivalrous bearing they were often deficient.
The success which they attained in their military operations was unsur-
passed by any warriors of the time^ and vdctory usually crowned these
exertions in whatever quarter they were directed. In performing these
exploits, they were not at all scrupulous as to the rights of anybody.
They obtained possession of their domains by the sword, and they kept
possession by the sword. They introduced a stern uncompromising
grinding system, which enabled them to crush with iron-hand that spirit
of resistance which a more equitable policy might have failed to subdue,
yuch in brief was the general character of the feudal system. The
establishments maintained by these haughty Normans corresponded with
the oppressive magnificence which characterised their general demeanour.
They lived in great castles, which were crowded with retainers, who apart
from mere ceremonies of state were wont to be at the disposal of their
liege masters on all ordinary occcasioiis.

In travelling, a baron was sometimes attended by 1000 horse, besides
a retinue on foot, which in time of war, in addition to the pecuniary
resources, they could bring to the assistance of the sovereign ; their trains,
fully mounted and equipped, were like little armies. AVhatever share a
love of pomp and parade might have in such displays, there can be no
doubt that the extreme insecurity of the country, and the precarious
tenure by which the Normans felt that they held their lauds, suggested
the necessity of these precautions, which rendered them formidable to the
predatory bands of the Angles, or Saxons, or Danes, who scoured the

A similar profuse expenditure prevailed in the domestic arrangements
of the baronial strongholds, but in most instances the means were not
adequate to the intention. The Norman barons never dreamt of the
modern accessories of luxurious ease. Straw supplied the place of beds ;
rushes rudely strewn served for carpets, the regal palace boasted of
nothing better for all its inmates. Splendid garments, rich armour,
massive cups of gold and silver, and priceless jewels were not uncommon,
but the barons were utterly ignorant or careless of the numerous appli-
ances of domestic convenience which long custom has rendered necessary
to the humblest cottager in the land.

The baronial tables were provided with the rarest luxm-ies that the age
could produce or that money could procure, and no pains were spared to
render the entertainments sumptuous and rec/terche. The cookery was


congenial to the prevailing taste, not over fastidious. Amongst tlie most
esteemed of tlieir dainties may be noticed the crane and the peacock^ the
latter being often sent to table in its gorgeous plumage, while certain
other dishes were especial favourites known by the names of Diligront,
Kasarupic, Maumpigirum ! Wines of powerful quality, ales and cider
were the usual beverages.

The mental culture of the Norman barons was such as might be
expected in an age when might was regarded rather than right, and the
SAVord was more in use than the pen. Few, very few, could read still less
could write, for such acquirements were looked upon as only fit for "poor
beggarly clerks.'^ Even seals were not employed till a late period, and
the usual mode adopted by the baron to confirm a grant or sanction a
deed was to bite the wax, leaving the impress of his teeth on the pliant
mastic, as the only proof of his approbation. Such were some of the
characteristics of a high class of men, who filled conspicuous positions in
the early annals of our history, and who were destined to be the instruments
of great and decisive changes in the state of society.


Roger Bigod came over the sea with the Conqueror, and was the first
of the family that settled in England. He was created Earl of Norfolk,
and he received many lordships in Norfolk and Suffolk. He was appointed
Governor of Norfolk and Suffolk and Constable of Normch Castle. He
received grants of 176 manors in Norfolk and 117 in Suffolk. Henry I.
having succeeded to the throne in the year 1100, whilst Duke Robert, the
King's eldest son, who should have succeeded him, was engaged in the
crusades, he could not divest himself of fears that his brother might ulti-
mately assert his claim and that disastrous consequences might follow ; to
avert which he endeavoured tu ingratiate himself with his subjects, amongst
whom was Roger Bigod who had survived the two former monarchs and
who was very powerful in East Anglia. Therefore, the King rewarded
him amongst other grants with the castle and lordship of Framlingham,
and constituted him also a witness to his laws, and steward of his house-
hold, an office then of much importance. This he did not long enjoy, as
he died in 11 07 and was buried in the priory of Black Canons of Thetford,
which he had founded and endowed.

William Bigod, the eldest son and heir of Roger, succeeded the deceased
in his various honours and possessions, and was also appointed steward to
the King's household. These he enjoyed only about thirteen years, as he
perished at sea on his return from Harfleur in company with Prince
Wilham, the King's eldest son, and in consequence of the intoxication of
the captain and crew j 140 young noblemen perished at the same time.


Hugh Bigod, tlio brutlicr and heir of the unfovtLiiuite William^ succeeded
to the hke honours and to the stewardship of the King's household. This
possession of Framhugham Castle was the principal instrument for ad-
vancing Henry's successor,, Stephen, to the throne in 1135, by swearing
with signal falsehood that Henry had on his death bed disinherited his
daughter Maude. Stephen, to reward this flagitious act on the part of
Hugh Bigod, advanced him to the earldom of the East Angles, soon after
which he appeai'ed in arms against his sovereign) espousing the cause of
Maude, and in the sequel engaged in a civil war which raged throughout
the country for several years. In 1154 Stephen died, and Henry II.
succeeded to the crown, and he immediately took possession of all the
castles, but he subsequently restored Framlingham Castle and all other
grants to Hugh Bigod.

Notwithstanding this royal bounty, the ungrateful Hugh Bigod, for-
getting his allegiance, perfidiously supported the cause of Prince Henry,
the King's eldest son, in his most unnatural revolt against his father, by
receiving an army of Flemings sent by Lewis King of France, under the
connnand of Robert Earl of Leicester, who landed at Walton in Suffolk,
marched through the country to Framlingham, where his troops were
quartered in the castle, and there soon after laid waste the whole district
with fire and sword. This castle was then the temporary residence of
Prince Henry.

In 117o, the Earl of Leicester's power being much increased by the
arrival of more Flemings, he with the Earl of Norfolk (Hugh Bigod), left
the castle with the view of aiding then' supporters in Leicestershire, when
these rebel earls, being met on the march by the royal army under
Richard de Lucy near Bury St. Edmund's, a sanguinary battle ensued, the
Earl of Leicester and his countess were taken prisoners, and 10,000 of
their followers slain. Hugh Bigod, however, escaped, and having
reached Dover he took shipping with 14,000 Flemings, and sailed to
France. He returned again, and Framlingham Castle Avas restored to
him, and his descendants held it till 1269.

Roger (1184 to 1220), the eldest son and heir of Hugh Bigod,
succeeded his father in his estates, and appears to have been quietly
possessed of them through the last five years of Henry II. 's reign ;
when, upon the accession ot Richard I. in 1189, on payment of 1,000
marks, he constituted or rather confirmed this Roger Bigod Earl of
Norfolk, and made him steward of his household. This Roger was not
otherwise conspicuous than in having been one of the twenty-five
celebrated barons appointed to enforce the observance of the Magna
Charta, and who, after meeting John and his few worthless courtiers on
the plain of Runny niede, on the 15th of June, 1215^ opened their


conferences, and on tlio lOth of June acliieved tlie great work in wliicli
they were so nobly engaged.

John_, witli the aid o£ the Pope, having almost immediately after
declared that all his concessions were void, because they were accom-
plished without the consent of the Pope, the barons were again obliged
to take the field, and the consequence was, that in 1215, not being able to
bring their forces together, Framlingham- Castle was surrendered to John,
who with an army of mercenary soldiers, which were collected and sent
him fi'oni Lower Germuny, ravaged East Anglia and other parts of the
kingdom, especially the lands of the confederate barons, with impunity,
and the greatest cruelt3^ Eoger Bigod with the twenty-four other noble
barons were excommunicated and denounced to be worse than Saracens,
and their lands laid under an interdict by Innocent III., for the part they
had taken in having exacted from John those covenants whereby the
Government virtually became vested in their hands. From this period
Roger Bigod appears to have passed the remaining four years of his
existence in a state of tranquility, and dying in 1220, was buried with
his ancestors in the monastery at Thetford. This earl intermarried with
Isabel, the daughtei' of Hamlyn Plantagenet, Earl of Warren, base son
of Geoffrey Earl of Anjou, and half-brother to Henry II. He had
another wife, whose name was Ide.

Hugh Bigod, who was likewise one of the twenty- five barons before
alluded to, became the next earl, as son and heir of the last-named Eoger
Bigod, and performing his homage to Henry III., in 1220, had possession
of his father^s inheritance, which he did not long enjoy. He died in 1225,
and his remains were interred at Thetford. He left two sons, Eoger and
Hugh, by Maud his wife, the eldest daughter and co-heir of William
Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, but who had been divorced from him ;
Hugh, the youngest son, professing the law, was made Chief Justice of
England in 1256. On his death the castle and manor of Framlingham
and all his inheritance descended to Eoger Bigod, as eldest son of the last
Earl Hugh, who became the sixth earl, and succeeded him . in all his
honours (1225 to 1262). He was descended on his mother^s side from
the Marshall's, Earls of Pembroke, and bore their arras, which were —
party per pale, or and vert, a lion ramp. Gu. armed and languid az.
Some of the family of Bigod's also bore a lion saliant in their arms.
This earl, in 1225, had delivery of possession of Framlingham Castle by
Henry III.'s special precept. Upon the authority of Blomefield, it appears
that the earl by deed gave to his beloved cousin, Eeiner Pecot, knight,
and his heirs male, for the acceptable services that he did him in feats of
arms and other honourable deeds, to his great credit and praise, with the
King's special leave (amongst other things), all Framingham Pigot> in


Norfolk^ and at the same time lie constituted the said Reiner and his heirs
male marshal of his household and castle in Framlingham, in Suffolk,
with all perquisites, customs, and profits thereto belonging, with liberty
to take two bucks every summer, and one doc every winter, at what time
they pleased.

The life of this individual presents but little of importance beyond that
of his having been a warrior through the long and eventful reign of
Henry III. In 1232 he was girded by his sovereign with the sword of
knighthood; and in 1246 Henry bestowed upon him the office and honour
of Earl Marshal of England, Roger having claimed the same in right of
his mother Maud, the sister and co-heir of Anselm, Earl of Pembroke
(then right heir to the last Earl Marshal of England), into whose hands
the marshals rod was solemnly given ; which she then delivered over to
this ear], her son, on which he did homage to the King. In 1253,
he was present at the great convention of Parliament holden in London,
and assisted in obtaining a ratification by the King of the Great
Charter granted by King John, his father. In 1255, it appears
that, having to make an apology for Robert de Ros, a great baron
of that age, who was accused of keeping as prisoner Henry's
daughter Margaret, Queen of Alexander III., King of Scotland, which
was near costing him his life, Roger Bigod had very harsh language
offered to him by Henry relative to the matter, who openly called him a
traitor, upon which he told the King he lied — that he never was or could
be a traitor ; adding, '' If you do nothing but what the law warranteth,
you can do me no harm.'^ " Yes,'^ repHed Henry, " I can thresh out
your corn and sell it, and so humble you." To which the earl replied, " If
you do so, I will send you the heads of your threshers." However, by the
interposition of the lords then present, matters were reconciled, and the
earl proceeded on an embassy to the French King. In 1263, a civil war
broke out concerning the provisions of Oxford, which were, in fact, the
first introduction of popular representation, and led to the gradual forma-
tion of the Commons House of Parliament, which Henry did not scruple
to resist. Li the outset of these contentions, the barons generally were
opposed to him, and supported the cause of Prince Edward his son, but
the great houses of Bigod and Bohun and the Piecies, with their warlike
borderers, were on the side of the recreant King. To strengthen the
power of Roger Bigod, he was made governor of Oxford Castle, when the
only exploit of which we have any record respecting the subject of the
present memoir was his fighting under Henry's banners at the battle of
Lewes, on the 14th day of May, 1265, where the King was taken
prisoner; but Roger having previously escaped from the field, fled with
other barons into France. In 1269 his mortal career was closed, by


having had his bones put out of joint at a tournament, in which warhke
exercises he was pre-eminently skilled, and was buried at Thetford, " if,"
says Weever, " his last will and testament was performed." His wife was
Isabel, daughter to William King of Scotland. The late earl having
died without issne, Roger, the last of the great house of Bigod (who was
the son of Hugh Bigod, Chief Justice of England, and nephew to the
last Eoger Bigod), succeeded, at the age of twenty-five, as heir to his late
uncle, 1269 to 1305, and performing his homage, had possession of the
great inheritance belonging to his ancestors, including therein the Hun-
dred of Loes. In 1285 he claimed to have warren in Framlingham, Ike,
Soham, and Hoo by prescription, as also one fair in Framlingham on the
vigil of St. Michael the Archangel and the four following days, and a
market weekly on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.

The leading feature in this earl's character was the opposition shown
by him and Humphry Bohun Earl of Hereford, High Constable of
England, on Edward I. requiring them with others of the nobility
to furnish him with trooj)S, in 1297, to invade Flanders; who eluded the
demand by desiring to be excused serving in Guienne, though they were
willing to furnish troops. Edward, not satisfied with their excuses,
threatened to give their lands to others more obedient. These menaces
occasioned serious commotions among the nobles, who justly considered
that their lands were not at his disposal. On this, Humphry Bohun and
Roger Bigod fearlessly told the King they were ready to follow him,
where he commanded in person, but not otherwise ; and Bigod, as Earl
Marshal, added that he was willing to lead the vanguard under him, as
his office obliged him to do, but that he would not serve under any other,
and to which none had right to compel him. Edward, in a great passion,
said he would make him go, to which Bigod, with an undaunted spirit,
replied he should not. " By the eternal God, th^n ," said the King, in
great rage, " you shall march or be hanged." " By the eternal God,"
replied the earl, " I will neither march nor be hanged," and immediately
withdrew with Humphry Bohun from Court, and ceased to be courtiers
any longer. In the end they were joined by many of the barons and
great men to the number of thirty bannerets, and assembled about 1500
men together in arms, intending to stand upon their own defence, with
wliich army the two earls withdrew into their own neighbourhood, where
they took such measures against the Government that they positively
refused to pay any manner of taxes or contributions, and . forbad the
officers, on pain of losing their heads, to adventure within their jurisdic-
tion. The King, according to Rapin, availed himself of the opportunity
of correcting the boldness of tke two earls by dismissing tkem from their
high situations, because they again refused to attend him in Flanders,


lest, as tliey feared, they should fall into his hands. From this period
the offices, held both by Bohun and Bigod, would appear to have been
in abeyance, but in the interim the two earls asserted and finally obtained
their rights, by compelling the King, while in Flanders, to undertake to
confirm the Great Charter granted by King John, with a further protec-
tion that he should not charge his subjects so freely at his pleasure as
theretofore, without consent of the states in Parliament, besides stipu-
lating also that a pardon should be given them for refusing to attend him
abroad, all which Edward undertook to do under his great seal, and which
was afterwards ratified by the Parliament holden not long after at York.
The death of Humphry Bohim having happened soon after, Roger Bigod
found himself involved in debt, contracted while acting in opposition to
Edward ; and being called upon by his clerical and aSluent brother, John
Bigod, to repay the sum which he had advanced him, the Earl Roger
became so incensed against him, that to disappoint the lender of that
inheritance which he had intended for him, and partly also to atone for
his open defiance to regal authority, he, by a special instrument, dated at
Colchester in the Abbey of St. John, on the 12th of April (1301-2) made
Edward I. his heir, and granted to that monarch and his heirs all his
castles, manors, &c., whatsoever, whereof he had an estate in fee, as well
in England as in Wales ; and did also render and release to the King
all his right and title which he had in the name of earl and the earldom

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 59 of 70)