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of Norfolk, as also in or to the marshalship of England, upon condition
that Edward paying his debts and adding to his estates other lands of the
annual value of 1000 marks, he, the King, should re-grant the Earldom of
Norfolk and also the marshalship unto him and his heu'S, and also all his
castles, &c., in England and Wales, to the use of him, the earl, and AHce
his wife, and the longest liver of them, with a limitation in favour of their
issue, and for want of such issue, then to the King and his heirs. Under
this grant Earl Roger was again possessed of his titles and his domains
until the time of his death, when, dying without issue in 1305, he was
interred with his ancestors at Thetford by the side of Aliva, his first wife,
who was buried there in 1280. This event happening, the earldom of
Norfolk and marshalship of England reverted to the King, who died in
1306. Upon the earFs demise, AHce, his second wife (who was a daughter
of the Earl of Hainault, as Countess Dowager of Norfolk, took posses-
sion of this and all Earl Roger's other castles, manors, &c., in England
and Wales ; but having survived her husband only about three years, the
whole passed in virtue of the grant to Edward II., as heir to his late
father ; upon which he appointed John de Bottetourt, Esq., governor of
Framlingham Castle, but who taking part with the Earl of Wai*wick
against Piers de Gaveston, Eang Edward's favourite, he displaced him. lu


1302, John de Haistings, Esq., was steward of the Manor of Framlingliam
ad Castrum for the last earl, and continued in that office during the life of
AHce his countess dowager.


Generally speaking, there is so much obscurity and intermixture of
legendary lore in the annals of our ancient worthies, that it is no easy
task to sift the incongruous mass of matter in order to arrive at something
near the truth ; and this remark applies with pecuhar force to the records
which relate to the founder and members of that once illustrious family of
whom we here present a sketch. The very name of De Warrenne exists but
in the faint traces of the past ; and a family once conspicuous for its power-
ful influence and princely wealth, associated with royalty, and distiuguished
for military prowess, has long ceased to have a living representative.

For some centuries they occupied a prominent station in the courts of
princes, and enjoyed a measure of prosperity and influence vouchsafed to
few, until at length their grandeur passed away as a dream of the night,
and their large possessions were dispersed into various channels unasso-
ciated by title or kin with the original proprietors.

William first Earl de Guarrenne (Warrenne in Normandy), and of
Surrey and Norfolk in England, was the chief of a family among the most
powerful and illustrious of his native land. He enjoyed the intimate
friendship of the Duke of Normandy, with whom he was nearly connected
by his marriage with Gondrel, the fourth daughter of that Prince, and it
was natural that he should form one of that reckless band of daring
adventurers who followed the fortunes of their ambitious master on his
invasion of England. Among those who took an active part in the battle
of Hastings, none was more conspicuous than the Knight WOliam de
Warrenne, whose zeal and devotion met with prompt attention and
reward. His royal master first created him Earl of Surrey, and then put
him in possession of lands of such vast extent as amounted to a princi-
pality. The official situation which he occupied in the Court of William I.
was that of Justiciary of the Kingdom. His colleague in this responsible
office was Eichard de Bienfait, and these names occur among those of the
Counsellors of State, associated with Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, the half-
brother of the King, in the Government when William I. revisited Nor-
mandy after his first partial subjugation of the country. The substantial
acknowledgments received by De Warrenne as his share of the plunder
may be summed up in a few words. In Norfolk alone he had grants of 139
lordships, in Sujffolk eighteen more, and at least an equal number in
Sussex, besides vast possessions in the Northern counties — enough to
satisfy the cravings of the most rapacious spirit.


Of all his extensive territories, his Lordship of Acre (Castleacre) at-
tractod his pecuUar regard, no doubt on account of its situation ; and here,
as soon as the partial settlement of affairs consequent on the Conquest
would permit of his applying to the work, he hastened to erect his castle
or baronial residence, wherein he took up his permanent abode. Vast as
were the resources which so wealthy a noble might bring to bear upon
this undertaking, the work must have been one of great labour as well as of
time, nor was it finished till some years after the earFs decease. In the
meanwhile, however, once fairly established in possession of his broad
lands, he appears to have applied himself with considerable activity to a
work of a more peaceful character, as proved by this castle at Acre. An
opinion has prevailed amongst antiquaries that this venerable stronghold
of feudal grandeur was built on Koman foundations, and that traces of
their work may be found in the existing remains. The inference does
not appear sufficiently supported by evidence to be deemed conclusive,
and a careful examination of the site does not confirm the supposition.
The whole structure of the castle appears to be entirely Norman work.

A distinguishing trait in the Norman character was the mania for
founding and endowing religions houses, and this disposition prevailed to
a great extent among them. De Warrenne, partaking of this spirit,
determined to apply some portion of his vast resources to purposes wh'ich
might bequeath to him a fairer position in tho annals of fame than he
might otherwise have attained. It is simply related that upon some
occasion he, Avith his countess, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
and at an early period of their progress they availed themselves of the
hospitality usually proffered by the monasteries to those who were bent ou
a like pious errand. The reception they experienced at Clugny, and the
general character of the religious profession exercised within its walls,
so charmed the noble pilgrims, that when in after years an opportunity
was presented for carrying into effect a long-cherished desire to found
some religious house for the welfare of their souls, they determined to
bestow on the foundation at Clugny the house they proposed to establish.
Thus the priory of Lewes was endowed for the support of twelve Cluniac
monks, who with Lanzo at their head were despatched about the year 1078
from the parent establishment to take possession of this new retreat.
Their privileges were then duly confirmed to them by charter. Within
six years after this, the earl commenced the foundation of another
religious establishment, immediately contiguous to his Castle of Acre,
which he appropriated to the same order and annexed as a cell to his
previous foundation at Lewes, both being thus subordinate to the wealthy
abbey of Clugny. Scarcely, however, was the first stone of the new
priory of Acre laid^ than its munificent founder sustained a bereavement



for wliicli lie was ill prepared. His wife Gondrel, to whom lie appears
tohave been tenderly attached,, died in childbed at his baronial castle, on
May 27th, 1085, and was removed for interment to the new priory church
of St. Pancras at Lewes, and there deposited. From this period the
bereaved earl seems to have passed the remainder of his days in com-
parative seclusion, devoting his time to religious exercises and works of
piety. Within four years after the loss of his lamented countess, he was
himself gathered to his fathers, and expired in the month of June,
A.D. 1089. It is said that his remains were deposited with those of his
countess in the priory church of St. Pancras at Lewes, where priests
prayed for the repose of their souls.

William, second Earl de Warrenne and Surrey, succeeded to the titles
and vast possessions of his father. Very scanty details of his life remain
to us, but it appears that he was a suitor, not altogether unfavoured, for
the hand of Matilda, daughter of Malcolm, King of Scotland, and subse-
quently Queen Consort of Henry I. The marriage, however, was not
sanctioned by William II., named Rufus, to whom the demand was made,
and not to the relatives of the lady. Rufus had good reasons for the
prohibition, in the simple fact that it would have been impolitic on his
part to encourage a union between so powerful a vassal and a princess of
the ancient Anglo-Saxon line ; and this project failing, there is no account
of the earl taking a wife. We find him on the accession, of Henry I.
associated with the Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, Walter Gilford,
Arnulf de Montgomery, Robert de Mallet, and other barons, in supporting
the pretensions of Robert of Normandy, the elder brother of Henry, to
the crown of England. These powerful nobles promised to join the duke
with all their forces, upon his landing to assert his right to the throne,
and they were true to their engagement. But the result was a failure,
and the leisure-loving Robert was speedily won over by his wily brother
to effect a compromise. The defection of the barons was punished by the
confiscation of their estates, but De Warrenne escaped without any

Of William de Warrenne, the third earl, the historical particulars are
equally meagre ; but he is said to have obtained high consideration for
services rendered to King Stephen. In requital for these services, that
monarch bestowed on De Warrenne the demesnes of the borough of
Thetford, together with the advowsons of all the churches on the Suffolk
side of that place, then of great importance. The earl, already in the
enjoyment of princely possessions, determined forthwith to apply his new
acquisitions to pious purposes, and accordingly he commenced at Thetford
the foundation of an extensive monastery, which he appropriated to the
use of regular canons of the holy sepulchre. This foundation he


endowed ^\atl^ all that he had I'oceived from the King, adding
further grants and privileges. This example was followed by his
brothers, and other successive members of his family, until the
establishment acquired much wealth. He fostered the ancestral founda-
tion at Acre, to which he was a liberal benefactor, causing a founda-
tion to be built at Stevesholm, as a cell to that establishment. At this
period the torch of enthusiasm about the Holy Land kindled a flame all
over Europe, and sharing the common zeal. Do Warrenne hastened to join
the ranks of the crusaders, carrying great aid to the army under Louis
King of France. He met an honourable death in the Holy Land, and his
possessions devolved upon his only child Isabel, who married Hamlyn
Plantagenet, of the house of Anjou.

Hamlyn Plantagenet, a member of the illustrious house of Anjou, and
nearly connected with the reigning sovereign as fourth Earl do Warrenne
and Surrey, succeeded to the titles and estates solely in right of his
marriage with Isabel, the only child of the deceased earl. By her he left
issue William, who succeded to the family honours. Hamlyn was not a
man of much spirit, for we read of him that having been appointed during
the reign of John to serve the office of Justiciary of the Cinque Ports,
he declined serving, and was thereupon required to pay the fine of a
palfrey to the King for his contumacy. And upon another occasion, in
the same reign, he is mentioned as having, in conjunction with the Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, paid a second fine to the same monarch, in order
to be released from the obligation of sending their knights and retainers
over into Poictou. From these little traits, wo infer the earl to have been
of u retiring and domestic disposition ; but he was by no means indifferent
to the stirring events of the reign of King John. We find the seal of
De Warrenne amongst others appended to Magna Charta, proving that he
was one of the bold barons who wrung that charter from the reluctant
and unprincipled King.

William, fifth Earl De Warrenne and Surrey, survived his father but a
short time, but having married Maud, a daughter of Wm. Marshall, Earl
of Pembroke, he left issue John Plantagenet and Isabella. The former
was destined to become a conspicuous character in the annals of his
country, as taking part in the serious differences which arose between
Henry HI. and his barons, under the influence of the celebrated Simon
de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. De Warrenne appears to have adhered to
the King's party, and enjoyed the friendship of Prince Edward. Upon
the serious reverses sustained by the royalist forces at the battle of Lewes,
De Warrenne escaped to the Continent, accompanied by his half-brothers,
to the King. From thence he subsequently returned, and landed in Wales
at the head of 120 knights and a troop of archers. His loyal example


was speedily followed by other barons wlio joined bis standard^ and after
a series of successful manoeuvres, De Montfort sustained a complete
overthrow at the battle of Evesham. It cannot be doubted that the
devotion of De Warrenne to his master^s cause obtained for him the favour
of that monarch.

John Plantagenet, the sixth Earl de Warrenne and Surrey, became a
historical character. Possessing* undaunted firmness, undoubted courage
and great military talent, he could not fail to attract the special regard of
one of the most chivalrous monarchs who ever ruled in England. Edward I.
on his return from a long sojourn in France, found that his exchequer was
low, and that vigorous efforts were required to raise money. For this
purpose he had recourse to some arbitrary measures, which roused the
opposition of the barons. Commissioners were appointed, before whom
the barons of the realm were summoned to give an account of the
titles by which they held their estates, under the pretext that encroach-
ments had been made on the rights of the crown. Earl De Warrenne
appeared before the commissioners in obedience to the summons, and
when required by them to produce his title, he drew his ponderous sword,
and pointing to it, said, ^^By this instrument do I hold my lands, and by
the same I intend to defend them. Our ancestors coming into this
realm with William the Bastard acquired their possessions by their good
swords. William did not make a conquest alone or for himself solely ;
our ancestors were helpers and participators with him.'"

The fearless earl was no longer urged, for the King was not prepared
to dispute the validity of such title deeds, and De Warrenne escaped
unscathed from the ordeal. But others were not so fortunate, for in cases
wherein title deeds had been lost or destroyed, the King seized upon the
manors or estates, and would not release them except on the payment of
large sums of money by way of ransom. This Earl de Warrenne became
very distinguished in the wars against Scotland, and his name will
always be associated with the annals of that country. The particulars
of the domestic career of this distinguished member of the family are
extremely uncertain. It appears that he had one son, who married and
died within the lifetime of his father, leaving issue also one son, who at
an early age succeeded to the titles and estates on the decease of his

John de Warrenne, the grandson, was the seventh and last earl, a weak,
mercenary, and dissolute man, who by his vices degraded the family name
and diminished the patrimony. He married twice, but had no issue. He
sold his estates and bought them again, and in 1336 he made a grant of
them to the reigning King Edward III. ; but that sagacious monarch,
disgusted with the recklessness that could so readily tamper with the


time-honoured possessions of an illustrious family, returned them on the
hands of the earl, with the express stipulation that in the event of his
decease, as he had no issue, the property should revert to Richard, son of
Edward, Earl of Arundel, and Alice his wife, a sister of this same worth-
less Earl de Warrenne. By this expedient the King effectually secured
those noble domains from further detriment or misappropriation at the
caprice of a weak-minded man. This last male scion of the noble house
of De Warrenne survived the re-settlomcnt of his estates eleven years,
and died June 30th, 1347.

The castle and manor of Acre, and the greater part of the vast posses-
sions of the De Warrennes, now passed to Richard Fitz Alan, Earl of
Arundel, a nephew of the last De Warrenne, in conformity with the
prudent arrangement of the King to that effect. Of this earl no facts of
importance are recorded, save that to avoid the recurrence of such an
arbitrary transfer of property as disgraced the career of his predecessor,
he adopted the precaution of entailing the castle and manor of Acre on
his heirs male only. He man-ied Eleanor, daughter of Henry Earl of
Lancaster, and by her had one sou. He died in 1375.


This ancient family dated from the time of King Canute, who in 1010
came over the sea to Norfolk, and brought with him Edwin the Dane, to
whom he granted lands in Sherbourne, from which place the family was
named. A son of this Edwin married a daughter of Albini the Norman,
who held lands in the neighbourhood, and from them descended a long
line of the Sharnbornes, as appears from a manuscript account of the

The Sharnbornes held two manors in Sherbourne 600 years, the name
continuing in a succession till the beginning of the eighteenth century.
This family of the Sharnbornes was one of the most distinguished families
in all England, having produced many great warriors whose names are
celebrated in history. Amongst others. Sir Adam de Sharnborne, knighted
in the Holy Land in the reign of Richard L

Sir Andrew de Sharnborne, knighted in the Holy Land in the reign of
King John.

Sir Peter de Sharnborne served in the Holy Land in the time of
Henry III.

Sir Andrew de Sharnborne was knighted in the Holy Land, 1248, at the
holy sepulchre, in presence of many French, Spanish, and German nobility.

Sir Andrew de Sharnborne, his son, was at the battle of Cressy, and at
the siege of Calais, and died afterwards at the siege of Rhenes, being
killed by a great stone.


Thomas de Sliarnborne was clianiberlain to the famous Queen Margaret,
consort to Henry VI.

Sir Henry de Sharnborne, knighted by Henry VIII., was Provost-Marshal
and Vice-Admiral of England, and was killed in a sea fight with the
French. His son and heir, Thomas de Sharnborne, was with his father
when killed, being then eighteen years of age. He became deaf from
the explosion of the great guns in the action.

Francis Sharnborne, Esq., was the of this family that bore the
name of Sharnborne. His daughter and heiress married Sir Augustine
Sotherton, of Taverham, near Norwich, in the time of the Common-

Miles Branthwayte, Esq., married Maria, the only daughter of Thomas
Sotherton, Esq., of Taverham, and who was then the last heiress of the
Sharnbornes. The son of Miles Branthwayte, of the same name, became
a, descendant in the right line of this ancient family. Mrs. Branthwayte,
who was living in 1780, was the sole heiress of the oldest family in
Norfolk, which is now extinct.


This family was very ancient in France and originally of the province of
Limosin, where is the castle of Le Strange in a parish of the same name.
It is most probable that Guy Le Strange, so called in the time of the
Conqueror, brought that name with him from France, and did not
assume it as being a stranger, but took it as most of the Norman
chiefs did, from the lordship or place in France where they lived. Guy
Le Strange, an officer under Alan the son of Flaad, had a grant from him
of the lordship of Knockyn, in Shropshire ; and from this Guy Le Strange
descended the ancient family of the Le Stranges, lords of Knockyn, the
barons of Blackmere, and the Le Stranges of Hunstanton, where the
family have been owners of the land for 650 years. The first account of
this family is by Sir William Dugdale, in his " Baronage of England,"
where he says, " At a great joust or tournament held at Castle Peverel,
in the peak of Derbyshire, among other persons of note were Owen
Prince of Wales, a son of the King of Scots, two sons of the Duke of
Bretaigne and the youngest of them, being named Guy, was called
Guy Le Strange, from whom the several families of the Le Stranges do

About the end of the eleventh century Roland Le Strange obtained
Hunstanton in marriage with Matilda Le Brun, daughter and sole heiress
of Ralph Fitz Herluin and Helewisa de Plaiz, who were respectively the
children of Herluin and Hugh de Plaiz, the original owners of the soil,
and in his direct posterity the manor has remained tiU the present time,


The more immediate ancestor of the Le Straiiges of Hunstautou was Sir
Hamon, third bon of John fifth Baron Lo Strange Knockyu, in Shropshire.
This Hamon was infeofFed of Hnnstanton by his eldest brother John in
1310. He married Margaret, daughter of Ealph Vernon, and co-heir of
Kichard Vernon, of Mottram, in Cheshire, and died in 1317.

Hunstanton Hall, the ancient seat of the Le Stranges, was built at
different times, and is a fine specimen of domestic architecture, built much -
in the style of a college. There is a rivulet in front of the hall, and a
beautiful park around celebrated for the fineness of the pastures. The
family of Lc Sti'auge held this manor of old on condition that they should
send two soldiers to defend Eising Castle, not far distant.

Hamon Le Strange, son and heir of Sir Hamon, married Catherine,
daughter and heir of Lord Camoys. He died in the reign of Richard
II., and was buried in Hunstanton Church.

Sir John Le Strange, his son and heir, accompanied John Duke of
Lancaster into Spaiu, which duke, being lord of Smithdon Hundred in
Norfolk, granted to I im for his services, " that his tenants there should be
exempt from serving on juries in his courts of the Duchy of Lancaster in
Norfolk.^' He married Eleanor, daughter and heir of Sir Kichard Walk-
fare, and dying in 1417 was succ2eded by his eldest son.

John Le Strange, the fourth lord of Hunstanton, had two brothers : —

1. Christopher, returned in the roll of the gentry of England, 1 t3;J.

2. Leonard Le Strange, who lands in Suffolk and died young. He
married Alice, daughter and hei* of Nicholas Beaumont, gentleman, and
co-heir of John Pike and John Eushbrook, and by her had

Eoger Le Strange, Esq., who by his wife Jane Bebe had two sons, viz. :

1. John Le Strange, Esq., of Norwich, returned in the roll twelfth of
Henry VI. He died without issae, and was buried in St. Mary's Chapel,
Field College, Norwich. Of this college no remains now exist.

2. Sir Henry Le Strange, Kit., who succeeded his brother at the ago
of thirty, and married Katherine, daughter of Eoger Druery, of Halsted,
in Essex. He died, seized of manors in Hunstanton, Holme, Eingstead,
Heacham, and Sedgeford, in the Hundred of Smithdon, in Norfolk. He
was buried in the chancel of the church at Hunstanton. He left threr
sons and one daughter — Sir Roger, Sir Eobert, John, and Ann.

Sir Eoger Le Strange, the eldest son, was esquire of the body to
Henry VIL, and High Sheriff of Norfolk of the eleventh of that reign,
1-197. He married Amy, daughter of Sir Henry Heydon, by whom he
left no issue alive, and died on October 27th, 1506, and was buried in the
ehm'ch at Hunstanton.

Sii- Eobert Le Strange, who succeeded his brother, was the ninth lord
of Hunstanton, and married Ann, the daughter and co-heii- of Thomas,


son of Sir Thomas Le Strange^ of Wellisburue, in Warwickshire^ who
Avas lord-deputy of Ireland in 1429. Sir Eobert died in 1511, leaving an
only son and three daughters.

Sir Thomas Le Strange, Knt., the tenth lord of Hunstanton, born in
1497, was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1532, and married Ann, daughter of
Lord Vaux. He died in the thirty-sixth Henry VIII., leaving sixteen
children, one of whom, Eoger Le Strange, was highly distinguished for his
military services for the house of Austria against the Turks.

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 60 of 70)