A history of Walter II de Lacy
1189 - 1241
Guest Contribution: Introduction
The article below is an extract from a wider paper “Hereford Gold: Irish, Welsh and English Land Part 2 – the Clients of the Jewish Community at Hereford 1179-1253” by Joe Hillaby, published in the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, Volume XLV, 1985. The extract is reproduced here with the kind permission of Joe Hillaby, to whom we give our grateful thanks. For references and bibliography, see the original paper.
Ewyas Lacy Study Group
A history of Walter II de Lacy, 1189 to 1241
The foundations of Lacy power in the southern march had been laid by Walter I, a member of the household of William fitz Osbern, earl of Hereford in the years immediately following the conquest. When fitz Osbern's son, Roger de Breteuil, forfeited his lands as a penalty for revolt in 1075, the de Lacys were the major beneficiaries, for king William granted them the right to hold of the crown those lands which they had previously held as mesne tenants of the earls. Thus Walter became one of the most important tenants-in-chief in the southern march, assuming many of the responsibilities which had previously belonged to the earls. Indeed, it was whilst supervising the construction of the spire of St. Peter's Church at the eastern end of fitz Osbern's great market place at Hereford that he fell to his death in 1085. In the Domesday survey of the following year his son, Roger, is shown with 14 demesne and 50 tenant’s manors in Herefordshire. In addition he had considerable holdings outside the county, of which the most important were the 18 Shropshire manors which he held as a tenant of the Montgomerys.
The Irish Connection
By 1189, when Walter II de Lacy succeeded to the estates of his father, Hugh II, there had been a significant shift in the basis of de Lacy power, from England and Normandy to Ireland. They still had large estates in England, based on the honour of Weobley, with its castles at Weobley, Ludlow and Ewias Lacy (Longtown), and lands in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Berkshire. For these English manors he was assessed at 51¼ knights' fees in the scutages of 1190, 1194 and 1201 but in Ireland he had even more extensive lands. Henry II had granted to his father the whole of the former Kingdom of Meath, one of the 'Historic Fifths' of Ireland, a liberty which extended from Drogheda in the east to Lough Ree in the west. Today it is represented by the counties of Meath and Westmeath, southern Longford and north-west Offaly. Although this branch of the family retained important estates in Normandy, from the time of Hugh II the family's principal interest was in Ireland. Indeed, Matthew Paris referred to Walter II as 'the most distinguished of all the nobles of Ireland'. In 1205 the family's Irish interests were extended even further when Walter IIs younger brother, Hugh III, was belted earl of Ulster by king John.
These Irish lands provided the family with much wealth and both Hugh II and his son, Walter II, have come down as great benefactors of the church. The Augustinian priory of Llanthony in the vale of Ewias was completely rebuilt in its present form with generous endowments from their Irish estates; a work that was completed by the canons in two stages between c. 1180 and c. 1220. Walter II was the founder of the small Grandmontine priory at Craswall. He had been with the king on the Poitou expedition of 1214 when John stayed at Grandmont for a short time and the words used by prior Gerard Itier to describe Grandmont itself, 'stern and very cold, infertile and rocky, misty and exposed to the winds' where 'the mountain abounds in great stones for building, in streams and sand, but there is scarcely any timber for building' and 'the land ... scarcely ever suffices to provide necessaries for the soil is so infertile, sterile and barren', might well be thought equally applicable to the site Walter gave to the order 1.200 feet up in the Black Mountains.
For the 'well being of the souls of myself, my wife Margaret and my son Gilbert', he made wide-ranging grants, in three charters, to the corrector, three clerks and ten lay brethren of St. Mary at Craswall. They were to receive the ninth sheaf of all grain from his English and Welsh manors, and 600 acres in the 'New Forest', between the Monnow and Leth (Llynfi?) as far as Talgarth. Later they were given 204 acres in 'my wood of Hamme', Holme Lacy, together with all the demesne and the manor house there, and the ninth sheaf of wheat, oats, barley, peas and beans from each of his Irish manors, one messuage in each of those manors and one burgage in each of his Irish towns. To his wife's foundation, the nunnery of Aconbury, he gave 30 acres of woodland at Holme Lacy, and when, in 1232, Bishop Hugh Foliot founded a hospital 'to the honour of the Lord and St. Katherine the Virgin' at Ledbury, Walter de Lacy endowed it with the tithes and rights of presentation to the churches of Weston Beggard and Yarkhill. In Ireland he founded the Cistercian abbey of Beaubec (Beybeg) as a daughter house of Beaubec in Normandy; later it became a cell of the Savignac abbey of Furness. He was also a benefactor of the Augustinian abbey of St. Thomas, Dublin and of two of his father's foundations, the Benedictine house on the demesne manor at Fore in Westmeath and the house of Augustinian canons, St. Mary's, at Kells.
The roots of Walter de Lacy's indebtedness are to be found in Ireland, for his vast estates there brought him not only wealth but also much trouble and expense and for long periods he had to devote most of his energies to the protection of his Irish inheritance. The status of the English king in Ireland was ambiguous. When Henry II granted Meath to Walter's father in 1172 it was with 'all liberties and free customs which Henry himself had or could have there'. His rights were thus almost royal, with absolute administrative and jurisdictional control — even to the exclusion of royal officials. In this respect his lordship was similar, but not identical, to that of the Welsh marcher lordship.
Beyond lay only the amorphous authority of prince John, who had been made lord of Ireland by his father, Henry II, in 1177. Such power as John had, outside a small number of places on the east coast, was exercised on his behalf by a royal justiciar. Relations with John were thus bound to be difficult. In addition, Walter had to ensure the security of his lands in a country where his fellow Norman lords and their tenants-in-chief 'varied their usual amusement of fighting the Irish with furious feuds amongst themselves or with the king's representative, the justiciar'.
His difficulties were compounded by the personal legacy of fear and mistrust left behind by his father. Henry II’s policy in Ireland had always been governed by the need to prevent any one of the Anglo-Norman lords from establishing predominant power and possibly an independent state. Thus, during his visit to Ireland in 1172, when he granted the lordship of Meath to Hugh de Lacy, he also appointed him justiciar and constable of Dublin to counterbalance the power established in the early stages of the invasion by Strongbow, Richard de Clare, second earl of Pembroke and Striguil. After Strongbow's death in 1176, the situation changed dramatically, for the threat now came from Hugh who had consolidated his position in Meath. His second marriage, contracted without Henry II's licence, to Rose, daughter of Rory O'Connor, king of Connacht and last high king of Ireland, did nothing to allay the king's fears that de Lacy might now establish an independent Anglo-Norman state in Ireland. William of Newburgh gives us a clear insight into the king's fears when he tells us how Hugh 'so extended his boundaries and prospered and increased so much in magnitude of wealth and power that he now became formidable, not only to his enemies, but even to his associates ... for he treated even these as enemies, if by chance they were not obedient, and he now appeared to affect the kingdom of Ireland for himself rather than for the king of England; so much so indeed that (as report states) he provided himself with a royal diadem'. Certainly, when John was in Ireland in 1185 he complained to his father that Hugh de Lacy would not allow the Irish to pay tribute to him. Indeed, he was described in the annals of Loch Cé as 'king of Meath and Breifne and Uriel, and it was to him that the tribute of Connacht was paid'. Hugh met his death whilst inspecting work on his castle at Durrow in 1186. A young Irishman, Gilla-gan-inathair O'Mee, who had concealed an axe beneath his cloak, struck off his head with one blow and in the confusion managed to effect his escape. The news of this transaction, it is reported, gave ‘excessive joy' to Henry II.
It was ten years before his body, which had been held by the Irish, was buried at Bective Abbey, although his head had been placed in St. Thomas', Dublin, where his first wife, Rose of Monmouth, was buried. In 1205 St. Thomas' made good its claim to Hugh’s body, which was then re-interred; hence Walter's lavish endowments. His example was followed, as the abbey's register shows, by a number of his vassals.
Walter de Lacy had to wait for four years, until 1189, to come into his English and Norman inheritance. Yet within five years he had been outlawed and his lands had been taken back into royal hands. Like his father, he found it extremely difficult to sustain his position in Ireland without falling foul of the crown. On three occasions developments in Ireland caused a severe crisis in his relations with his feudal overlord: with Richard I between 1194 and 1198; with John from 1210 to 1214; and with Henry Ill's justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, in 1224.
John's rebellion of 1193-4 against his brother, Richard I, led to a confused situation in Ireland, where he held his lordship independently of the English crown. On his return to England in 1194 Richard asked his court for judgement against John, for rebellion and for allying with the French king whilst he himself had been held to ransom in Germany. It was whilst the king was besieging John's castle at Nottingham that Walter de Lacy's petition for the return of his Irish lands was met, not by John, but by Richard, who confirmed to Walter all the grants in Ireland made to his father by Henry II. Walter, in alliance with John de Courci, immediately descended on Meath and took prisoner John's justiciar, Peter Pipard, and many of his knights. He was fully in control of his lordship by 30 June, for on that day he granted his burgesses of Drogheda, the principal stronghold of Meath, a borough charter which conferred upon them the 'customs of Breteuil’. What Walter had not bargained for was Richard's reconciliation with John, against whom he had now technically committed treason, for John's lordship of Ireland was held not of the English king, but of the pope. Walter's conduct evidently antagonised both the brothers, for the Pipe Rolls show that action was taken against his English estates about Michaelmas, 1194.
De Lacy went into exile and it was another four years before he was able to come to terms with the crown for the return of his lands. The Herefordshire Pipe Roll for 1198 records that 'the king's good will and seizen of his lands' cost Walter 3,000 marks (£2,066-13-4). £866-13-4 was paid immediately (£200 into the English and £666-13-4 into the Norman Exchequer). The remaining £1,200 was to be met at the rate of £200 per annum at the English Exchequer. One of John's ways of maintaining control over his barons was to keep them in debt to the crown. In this instance, Richard, in his anxiety for money, anticipated his brother.
De Lacy's relations with King John
John succeeded to the English throne in 1199. He was obliged, for the moment, to ignore the humiliation he had experienced in Ireland at Walter's hands. The latter’s estates at Lassy, Campeaux and elsewhere in Calvados were situated in a highly strategic position so de Lacy assistance was vital to John if he was to succeed in his conflict with the French king. At the same time, he sought to ensure Walter's good conduct. Between September 1199 and March 1201 de Lacy was kept in the king's entourage in France and at home—at Rouen, Caen, Falaise, Feckenham, Lincoln and Nottingham—as the witness lists of royal charters show. Further, John retained two of the most important de Lacy strongholds—Ludlow and Drogheda. Only in 1206 was the former restored for a fine of 400 marks, to be paid at 100 marks a year. Drogheda was still in John's hands at his death in 1216. In addition, in November 1200 John arranged Walter's marriage to Margaret, daughter of his then favourite, William de Braose, lord of Brecon, Builth, Radnor, Abergavenny and (from 1203) Gower, the man who had treacherously murdered many of the neighbouring Welsh lords of Gwent in his castle at Abergavenny in 1175. In the year following Walter's marriage, John handed over to Braose in return for a fine of 5,000 marks, the lordship of Limerick, which had formerly belonged to William's uncle, Philip. The royal purpose may well have been to create a counterbalance to de Lacy's Meath lordship but by 1204 even John seems to have been convinced of Walter's reliability, for he was allowed to return to Ireland 'in the king's service' and a series of royal charters for that year shows him closely associated with the royal justiciar in the government of the land.
As a result, de Lacy was in no way involved in the catastrophe of the final loss of Normandy when, on 24 June 1204, Peter de Preaux admitted the French king Philip Augustus into Rouen and, a few days later, John's last strongholds, Verneuil and Arques, also surrendered. The loss of the duchy presented the Anglo-Norman barons with the gravest dilemma they had yet faced. Should they retain their English or their Norman estates? Given the intense hostility of the English to the French king, a compromise, such as that attempted by William Marshall, to retain his lands under both monarchs, was not an option open to them. Clearly, for most their loyalty followed their major holding. Thus it was that within a year Philip Augustus granted away most of the de Lacy lands in Normandy to Andre Propensee, maire of Falaise.
The loss of Normandy had a profound impact on Irish history, for the great Anglo-Irish lords, having forfeited their Norman inheritance, were determined to secure compensation by more intensive exploitation of their Irish estates—a policy which, by 1210, led to a severe crisis in their relations with the English king.
Walter's father had completed the first stage in this process of exploitation. Conquest was followed by pacification through sub-infeudation, the granting of land in return for military and other services, and the building of castles. Indeed, at Hugh II's death in 1186, the annalist of Loch Cé tells us, Meath 'from the Shannon to the sea was full of castles and foreigners'. In the words of Giraldus Cambrensis, 'within a brief period he settled the country and reduced it to a peaceful condition ... Having made agreements on which they (the Irish) could agree ... (Hugh) hemmed them in by castles ... and compelled them to obey the laws'. Thus Hugh was 'the first to succeed in drawing profit from that which had brought others nothing but trouble'.
The next stage was to develop the economic resources of the lordship. Again techniques were used which had proved successful a century earlier in England. There was, however, one major difference. The society of pre-Norman Ireland was pastoral. Thus the parallel was with Wales, not with pre-Conquest England, and it was with their Welsh experience behind them that the de Lacys, the Marshals and the de Braose lords were able to realise rapidly the potential of a country 'not, by medieval standards, poor but ... economically underdeveloped'. The end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century thus witnessed the intensive manorialisation of demesne lands in the lordships of Meath, Leinster and Limerick. Large numbers of peasants, accustomed to the production of grain, were brought over from their estates in Wales, the marches and England. This is clearly shown by surname evidence.
From the Pipe Roll of the Dublin Exchequer from 1211-12, when the de Lacy estates were in the king's hands, we can see how far this process had gone. It presents 'a striking contrast between the grain renders of the Norman lordships and the cattle of the Irish lands' and clearly demonstrates that by 1212 the demesne lands of the de Lacys were 'intensively manorialised and producing huge quantities of surplus grain for export'. The accounts for Meath refer to a yield of some 20,000 bushels of wheat, 30,000 bushels of oats, large quantities of stock and, above all, cattle. They also show that the lordship was well provided with oxen, the plough beast of the time, and that extensive capital investment had taken place to permit the full exploitation of the natural resources of the lordship—new granges, mills, fish ponds, limekilns and bridges to facilitate the transport of agricultural produce to the ports.
The expansion of towns and trade matched the rapid development of arable farming. The earliest urban settlement in Meath was at Drogheda. Close to the mouth of the Boyne, which, with its tributaries, provided the principal lines of communication for the lordship, it was the natural hub for trade. In 1172 Henry II had granted Dublin ‘all the liberties and free customs which the men of Bristol have'. John gave a similar charter to Cork about 1188. On his arrival in Ireland in 1194, one of Walter de Lacy's first acts was to confer on his town of Drogheda, 'on the side of Meath', a charter with the 'customs of Breteuil’, in the Hereford form as they had been given to many Welsh towns earlier in the century. By 1199 Walter had conferred the same Breteuil customs on the ancient ecclesiastical centre of Kells and on Trim, with its great castle at the head of navigation on the Boyne.
Subsequently, they were granted by de Lacy and others to many other places, some of which never developed beyond their original rural condition, remaining, in the terminology of the historical-geographer, mere 'rural boroughs', villages where some of the inhabitants had the privileges of townsmen. The number of such 'boroughs' is clearly reflected in Walter's grant to Craswall of one burgage in each of his Irish boroughs as well as one messuage in each of his Irish manors for such burgess status was one of the principal means of attracting English and Welsh settlers to Ireland. A Dublin rental of the last years of the 12th century tells its own story (Table 14).
Royal charters provide further evidence of Walter de Lacy's intensive exploitation of his Irish estates. In 1204 he persuaded John to grant him eight-day fairs at his boroughs of Trim and Kells and his important seigneurial manor of Ballymore Lough Sewdy, halfway between Athlone and Mullingar in Westmeath. In 1208 he had a royal licence to erect a mill on the Boyne at the bridge at Drogheda and a royal charter of 1215 refers, significantly, to 'all Walter de Lacy's ships'.
This economic activity was one of the key factors behind the breakdown in relations between John and his greater Irish lords, but in 1204 Walter de Lacy was still in royal favour, for John, employing his father's tactics, was now using the de Lacys to counter the rising power of their former ally, John de Courci. Throughout that year, Walter remained closely associated with the royal justiciar in the government of Ireland and, in alliance with his brother, Hugh III, he defeated John de Courci and seized his Ulster lands. Shortly afterwards, these, with the earldom of Ulster, were given by John to Hugh but by 1207 relations between the king and the de Lacys had begun to deteriorate seriously. Warren has argued that John's policy during this period was to establish a stable regime in Ireland, based on an even-handed treatment of the Anglo-Norman and Irish aristocracy. This would give a balance of power that would safeguard royal interests. Warren further argues that John 'appreciated that the colonizing of Irish land' now being pursued by Walter de Lacy, William Marshal and others was a seriously destabilising factor 'which could determine the fate of his (Irish) lordship'.
No doubt personal factors also played an important role when, in 1207 Walter de Lacy's father-in-law, William de Braose, quarrelled with John and forfeited the lordship of Limerick. The following year, de Lacy and Marshal prudently decided to accept new and more restrictive charters from John for their lordships of Meath and Leinster. This merely postponed the conflict which was triggered off by de Braose who, using his son-in-law's castle at Weobley as his base, fired the town of Leominster, then sought refuge in Ireland, first with William Marshal and after with Walter de Lacy. When John landed at the head of a formidable army in 1210, all opposition collapsed. Walter sent his knights, William Parvus, Richard de Tuyt, Richard de Futipo, Richard de Capella and Hugh Heese, to treat with him at Dublin, saying that 'Walter salutes the king as his liege lord, of whom he holds all he possesses; and prays the king to relax his ire and suffer him to approach his presence; Walter ... places all his castles and lands in the hand of the king, as his lord, to retain or restore as he pleases'. John was not prepared to relent and Walter, with his brother, Hugh, fled into exile. William de Braose did likewise but his wife, Maud, and son, William, were handed over to John by the Scots. The chroniclers are unanimous in recording their deaths by starvation in one of John's dungeons. It was three years before Walter was able to come to terms with the king.
During the period of general reconciliation following John's surrender of the realm to the pope, Walter was allowed to return to England. On 29 July 1213 the sheriff of Herefordshire, Engelard de Cigogne, was ordered to restore all de Lacy's English lands, except Ludlow, once four hostages for his good behaviour—his son, Gilbert, Miles and John Pitchard and William Furches—had been handed over. Walter accompanied the king on the Poitou expedition in 1214 and may well have been with John when he spent two days at Grandmont on 1 and 2 April. The next year, terms were agreed with the king for the return of his Irish lands. Walter had to pay a fine of 4,000 marks, of which 1,000 marks were to be paid into the Irish exchequer immediately, but the king was to retain the castle of Drogheda and that part of the town 'to the side of Meath' for a specified term. Walter's son, Gilbert, was to remain the king's hostage until the money was paid. The convention was confirmed on 27 July when John wrote to Walter's knights and free tenants in Meath, telling them that he had received their lord back into his full grace and had restored his land, and ordering them to 'be intentive to him as they were when the king took Walter's land into his hands'.
The ten years from 1213, when he returned from his second period of exile, to 1223, the year of Henry III's 'partial' coming of age, must have been amongst the most fruitful of Walter's career. The Barnwell annalist spoke for most Englishmen when he said of John 'he was a pillager of his subjects ... they forsook him and, ultimately, little mourned his death'. De Lacy, too, had been plundered by John but in the last desperate and isolated months of his life he was one of that small group, drawn predominantly from the Welsh march and Ireland, that stood by him and, after his death, served his young son and heir with equal loyalty through the early and difficult years of his reign.
Anxious to curb the growing power of the de Braose brothers, Giles and Reginald, John re-established de Lacy in the southern march. Ludlow Castle was returned to him in April 1215 and the next year he was granted the shrievalty of the county and custody of the royal castle at Hereford. After the death of Giles de Braose, his brother-in-law and the leader of the anti-royalist party in the county, he was appointed guardian of the see during the vacancy. In addition John accorded him the privilege of hunting in the royal Forest of Dean.
Heads of most of the other great families of the southern march showed equal loyalty to John and later to his son in their times of difficulty. William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and lord of Striguil, John of Monmouth, Walter II de Clifford and his son Walter III, Roger I de Clifford of Tenbury and Hugh and Robert de Mortimer were as steadfast. But this loyalty was in no way disinterested. It was a natural response to the loose alliance which had been formed between the baronial opposition to John and the Welsh princes led by Llewelyn. By mid-May Bishop Giles de Braose was in open conflict with John and had sent his brother, Reginald, to join Llewelyn and the Welsh princes in a campaign to wrest the Braose castles from their royal custodians. To cement the alliance, Reginald was married to Llewelyn's daughter, the dark-eyed Gwladus. The threat that such an alliance could present to the marcher lords was made clear in May 1215 when Llewelyn and his allies used the occasion of the barons' seizure of London to take Shrewsbury. It was in an attempt to forestall such an onslaught that Walter de Lacy, John of Monmouth, Hugh de Mortimer and Walter de Clifford had gathered together a large force in support of the king at Gloucester the previous month.
The peace between king and barons at Runnymede in June 1215 was 'made only to be broken' and when war was resumed the alliances, between dissidents and Welsh on the one hand and John and the marcher lords on the other, were re-established. This, it has been pointed out, was a situation which 'was to repeat itself more than once in the constitutional conflicts of the century'. A close link also existed between Welsh and Irish affairs. The Irish lordships of Walter de Lacy, William Marshal, the de Braoses and others ensured this. Walter's half-brother, William 'Gorm' de Lacy, exemplifies well the closeness of such links, for his mother was the daughter of the Connacht king, Rory O'Connor, whilst his wife, Gwenllian, was another daughter of Llewelyn the great.
In 1212, when John faced serious difficulties with the English baronage, William Marshal and the barons of Ireland publicly pledged their loyalty to him. What price did John pay? Warren has 'little doubt that it was a free hand in Ireland. A free hand to exploit their Irish lordships with the utmost efficiency, and if necessary ruthlessness - with no interference from the justiciar in Dublin, and no political nonsense about concern for the welfare of the Irish'. This bargain 'paid off handsomely: after John's unexpected death the barons of Ireland (and of the marches - with William Marshal as rector regni, at their head) found themselves governing England'. What has not been emphasised are the close links between Ireland and the Welsh march at this time and the crucial position of William Marshal and Walter de Lacy in both. De Lacy's return from exile in 1213 was almost certainly part of John's accord with the Irish baronage.
After his return Walter spent most of his time in the marches but was with John in the autumn of 1216 when he ravaged the eastern counties. On 9 October, after being well feasted by the burgesses of Lynn, the king suddenly developed the illness from which he died ten days later. He seems to have had prevision that death was at hand, for, in one of the last formal acts of his reign, he sought to expiate the crime that had ranked so high with all the chroniclers—the deaths, by starvation, of Walter de Lacy's mother-in-law, Maud de Braose, and William, her son. 'In contemplation of our Lord', John granted de Lacy's wife 'three carucates of land to be assarted and cultivated in our forest of Aconbury for the establishment of a house of nuns who are to pray for the repose of the soul of her father, William de Braose, her mother Maud, and her brother William'.
John died at the bishop of Lincoln's castle at Newark on 18 October 1216. Prominent amongst the lay executors of his will were the lords of the southern march - Walter de Lacy, William Marshal and John of Monmouth. John's nine-year-old heir was hurriedly crowned at Gloucester on 28 October by a small group of loyalists led by William Marshal. The first meeting of the new royal council with William Marshal as rector regni, regent, took place at Bristol Castle on 11 November and comprised the full strength of the loyalist leadership at the time. Ten of the 24 laymen present had strong interests in the southern march—William and John Marshal, Walter de Lacy, John of Monmouth, Walter II de Clifford, Roger I de Clifford of Tenbury, William Cantelupe, Hugh and Robert de Mortimer and Walter Beauchamp. The first six were also amongst those responsible for the re-issue, with some omissions, of Magna Carta. Two of the articles omitted related to the Jews: number 10, which forbade the charging of interest during the minority of a debtor's heirs; and number 11, which safeguarded the widow's dower. Publication of these, and other, articles 'weighty and doubtful' was 'deferred till we shall have taken counsel more fully'. The marchers played a prominent part in the campaign against the dissident barons and their French allies. A letter of February 1217, sent to boost the morale of the beleaguered men of Rye, makes it clear that military support for the young king came predominantly from the Welsh march.
Hamo [the Jew] and the marcher lords during the minority of Henry III
The political circumstances of the end of John's and the beginning of Henry III's reign explain how it was that Hamo established his Hereford business. It was the members of the loyalist group who provided the mainstay of his trade. In 1244 Walter de Lacy, John Marshal, nephew of William Marshal, and John of Monmouth all owed more than £100 to Hamo's heirs on debts which they had contracted many years earlier. Relatives and friends were drawn into this circle of Hamo's clients. Gilbert of Frome was a close relative and active lieutenant of Walter de Lacy; Gilbert, fourth earl of Pembroke, who owed Hamo's family £138 in 1244, was the third son of William Marshal and succeeded to the family's English, Welsh and Irish estates in 1234; Roger II de Clifford, who owed £400, was the son of Roger I whom he succeeded at Tenbury in 1231.
The Close Rolls shed further light on Hamo's relationships with this compact group of marcher and Irish lords. In 1233, some ten years after he had succeeded his father Walter II in the barony, Walter III de Clifford was Hamo's debtor to the tune of 1,000 marks. The same table shows that Roger II, of the Tenbury branch, was already in debt, in 1230, to a consortium headed by Hamo of Hereford but with Aaron of York and David and Copin of Oxford as the other members. The amount of Roger's debt is not recorded in the Close Rolls but the membership of the consortium included three of the Jewish 'magnates' of the period. The sum involved must have been substantial.
Some members of the group were borrowing from Jews early in the century. The Fine and Oblate Rolls show king John, as early as 1204, granting Pepelin, son of Elias, and Josce, son of Leo, a writ for the repayment of a debt of £10 with interest against Walter II's brother, Gilbert de Lacy. A year earlier Walter I de Clifford stood as one of
the guarantors for a loan of £50 made by a Northampton Jew to William de Braose.
When and how were the links forged between Hamo and this group of marcher lords? No direct evidence is yet available to show when Hamo established himself at Hereford but there can be little doubt that it was after John's death, when the council of regency formulated its protectionist policy towards the Jews, for the Jewish community at Hereford appears to have suffered as much as any from John's 'captivity of the English Jewry' in 1210. In the return to a writ of 1219 reference is made to those Hereford Jews 'who died and those who emigrated overseas' at that time. Some continuity there may have been, probably in the person of Elias of Hereford, but the community was certainly very much depleted in August 1216 when Walter de Lacy assumed the government of the county.
Although Thomas de Anesy rendered the sheriff's accounts at the Exchequer each
Michaelmas, a range of evidence shows de Lacy exercising the royal authority throughout Herefordshire. Indeed, after the death of Giles de Braose, he also acted as guardian of the diocese until a royal writ was sent on 11 December 1216, commanding that the temporalities be handed over to Braose's successor, Hugh de Mapenore. De Lacy's prime responsibility was for the maintenance of the young king's authority throughout the county and for its defence against the continuing Welsh menace. The Pipe Rolls show that work on the defences of Hereford Castle continued even after peace was restored to England in September 1217. Indeed, one of John's letters patent makes a nice distinction between the Welsh threat and that of the dissident barons supported by the power and person of Louis of France. It allows that 'if Louis should come and besiege Hereford castle so that the siege could not be raised without the intervention of an army - in that case Walter de Lacy need not venture his person within the said castle ... but only to see that it be garrisoned by those who might be trusted ... to defend it without loss of the king's honour and advantage'.
By autumn 1217 the civil war was ended and by March 1218 the fear of a Welsh attack had passed. De Lacy was sent to escort 'Llewelyn, prince of North Wales', who, having extracted the peace terms he desired from the council of regency, was to meet the young king at Worcester and do homage at Woodstock. Internal peace established, the council, of which de Lacy was a prominent member, now had the opportunity to consider much-needed measures to revive the economy. One was to reassure those members of England's Jewish communities who had survived the tribulations of John's reign and to encourage the return of others—all the more necessary because of the rising tide of anti-Semitism associated with the preparations for the crusade preached by the pope in 1215. These measures were so successful that there was an influx of Jews from abroad, principally from France. The wardens of the Cinque Ports, who had created difficulties for some of these immigrants, were ordered to present no impediments, apart from taking sureties that the newcomers would, in due course, register themselves with the Justices of the Jews.
At Hereford, it was Walter de Lacy who, as sheriff, was responsible for implementing the new policy towards the Jews. He was to 'make known throughout his bailiwick that they had been granted the king's firm peace'. He was to protect them against any 'gravamen or molestation' from the general populace and was to resist any attempt on the part of the recently-appointed bishop, Hugh de Mapenore, to implead them for debt in his ecclesiastical courts, for such jurisdiction belonged to the king alone. These were all privileges originally accorded by John's charter of 1201, which the council of regency now reconfirmed. Quite new, however, was the council's decision that the Jews residing in the town were to have their own 'community'. This represents a profound change in the status of the Hereford Jewry. Not only could it have its own archa, or chest, but also the power to negotiate the purchase from the crown such privileges as the continued use of tallies and dispensation from wearing the 'badge of shame'.
For Jews throughout the realm the regency offered the promise of a new beginning and, given the political and military situation of the time, Hereford was an ideal base for financial activity. This opportunity Hamo seized. We know nothing of his origins, but the financial resources at his disposal, as indicated by the 1221, 1223 and 1226 tallage rolls, make it clear that he was a wealthy man before he came to Hereford for, however favourable the economic and political climate, such a fortune could not have been amassed in Hereford in a few years. He may have come from the continent in the recent wave of immigration. The name would suggest northern France, unless it is a corrupt form of the Hebrew, Haim or Hayyim, meaning 'life' but this was normally rendered Hagin in England. On the other hand it may be that he came from London and was a member of the wealthy Crespin family for there is much evidence that he and his sons had close relations with the Crespins over a long period. This would explain the financial resources at his disposal: of the London community, Benedict Crespin, also called Benedict Episcopus, made the largest contribution to the 1221 and 1223 tallages. Twenty years later, he and his brother Jacob were still prominent in the London community for they were sent as its representatives to the Worcester 'parliament'.
As sheriff of the county and custodian of Hereford Castle, Walter de Lacy played a crucial part in the success of Hamo's Hereford venture. Without de Lacy's active support Hamo could not have established himself as he did in the city. Certainly, the large sums he could make available to the marcher lords gave him considerable leverage. Walter de Lacy was in serious financial difficulty at the time. When he negotiated his 'convention' with John in 1215 to pay 4,000 marks for the return of his Irish lands, 1,000 marks had to be paid immediately and money was still outstanding from the 3,000 mark fine levied by Richard I in 1194. The place to find such funds was the Jewish money market. It is highly likely, therefore, that Hamo's decision to establish himself at Hereford was due to Walter de Lacy.
Other such associations between Jewish financiers and members of the higher aristocracy are on record. On the continent Jews were often described as 'belonging' to a noble patron. Thus in 1200 William Marshal had been granted by John, as duke of Normandy, a Jew 'of Chambay' originally brought to France by Stephen de Pertico. Even in England, where all Jews were said to be the 'property' of the crown, one such example can be found for, in 1255, Henry III presented Abraham, father-in-law of Hamo's son, Leo, and one of the wealthiest English Jews of his day, to his brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall, whom he permitted to have a special archa, or chest, at Wallingford, the caput of his honour, for the administration of Abraham's bonds. A chest at Hereford was just as important for Walter and Hamo, to provide a local repository for the records of their financial transactions.
Although the English Jewry had been ravaged in the later part of John's reign, de Lacy knew well a number of the flourishing communities across the channel. Connections had been severed with the Jewries of Normandy, already in serious decline by the time the duchy fell into the hands of the French king, but were maintained with those important Jewries in the Angevin lands of Poitou and Saintonge, including la Rochelle. It was here that de Lacy landed with John for the Poitevin expedition in 1214.
One of the largest, and certainly culturally the most important Jewish community north of the Alps was at Narbonne. During the 12th and 13th centuries it enjoyed a period of exceptional stability and prosperity. Within the city there were two separate Jewries, the Grand Jewry, under the protection of the count, and the Little Jewry, within the archbishop's jurisdiction. In 1217 the Jewish population of Narbonne amounted to about 1,000 souls. It had established itself, at an early date, as a major Hebrew cultural centre with the famous rabbinic schools, the Vielles Ecoles, corresponding to the Hebrew YesHiva, and the Ecoles Inferieures, corresponding to the Hebrew Yeshiva le talmudim. Such was their reputation that some authorities have suggested that the European rabbinate originated here. Certainly, the Saragossan rabbi, Sheshet ben Isaac Beneviste, called the schools of Narbonne, by a play with the Hebrew Nev Birinah, 'the lighthouse of science'.
This was the city to which de Lacy was sent in April 1214 to buy horses. It must have made a profound impression on him. Founded in 118 B.C., described by Martial as pulcherrima, it had been, with Lyons, the most populous town of Roman Gaul. In the 12th century it was still famed for the opulence of its citizens, based on their Mediterranean trade. The presence of the two Jewries, safely behind the ramparts facing the river Aude, the one clustering in the streets to the north and east of the Palais des Vicomtes and the other by the Palais Archiepiscopal and St. Just's cathedral, was clear testimony to the unwavering support given by the counts of Narbonne to the Jews within their domain. The achievements and reputation of the Narbonne schools gave equally clear testimony to the Jews' intellectual capacity. For the visitor from the north all this provided a remarkable insight into the benefits that could accrue, to both Christian and Hebrew, from such a harmonious relationship.
Only sixteen months after his visit to Narbonne, Walter de Lacy was sheriff of Herefordshire, an office he held until 1223. During those seven years a similarly harmonious relationship was established between Hamo, whose wealth and status made him the natural head of the Jewish community at Hereford, and de Lacy who, as king's representative, was especially charged with the well-being of that community. It is said that the Jews, in arranging their settlement in Hereford, explicitly stated that in times of danger they should be allowed to shelter in the castle. This reflects the authority Hamo had. The meetings in the castle between these two, the one soldier and great landowner, the other financier, scholar, connoisseur and bibliophile, must have been remarkable occasions. Both were invested with much power, yet both were vulnerable. Outwardly their power rested on land and the sword for one and gold and the pen for the other, but in reality for both it rested, ultimately, on the authority of the crown. Of the two, the power of de Lacy proved to be the most short-lived, for when he died be was blind, without male heirs and his inheritance was wasted.
With the Welsh de Lacy's relations were far from harmonious. William Marshal the younger succeeded his father, the regent, as earl of Pembroke and lord of Striguil in 1219. A deep personal antagonism developed rapidly between him and the Welsh prince, Llewelyn, posing grave problems for those trying to maintain peace on the march. There was open conflict between the two in 1220; and in 1223, when Llewelyn attacked the castles at Kinnersley, Whittington and Builth, war broke out between English and Welsh. Hubert de Burgh, the able but self-seeking justiciar, assembled an army at Hereford which quickly brought Llewelyn to terms. Under the guise of a concern for national security, he sought to enhance his own position in the march by the establishment of a stronghold at New Montgomery.
Peace, apparently, firmly re-established the services of de Lacy and his fellow marchers were no longer indispensable. After seven years' tenure of the shrievalty he was suddenly replaced, on 15 November, by a royal officer, Ralf fitz Nicholas. This was not an isolated incident, for the next month thirteen other shires were placed in new hands and the custody of twenty-five castles previously in baronial hands was transferred. Linked to the declaration of the king's partial coming of age, these actions reflected de Burgh's desire to re-establish royal authority over local government.
Ireland , 1216-25
All this was quickly overshadowed by events in Ireland. Responsibility for the southern march since 1216 had meant that Walter's visits to Ireland had been few and brief. In the autumn of 1220 he made a short visit to his Irish estates which had been in the custody of his half-brother, William 'Gorm' Lacy, for the last five years. Since the death of John the council of regency, under pressure from de Lacy, had been commanding Geoffrey de Marisco, the Irish justiciar, to hand back the castle and town of Drogheda which had been retained by the king throughout his reign. Now de Lacy agreed that it should remain in royal hands, in return for which he was to receive £20 per annum and the tallage of the town. Drogheda being thus lost, his task on his return was to ensure the security of Meath by the completion of the great stone keep at Trim, now the effective centre of his lordship. According to the Annals of Loch Cé, he launched an attack on Breifne where, to intimidate enemies and hearten friends, he "performed a great hosting, to the crannog of O'Reilly ... obtaining hostages and great power'. He was in Ireland again for part of 1221 and returned briefly in 1222.
This was not enough to counteract the years of neglect which his Irish interests had suffered since 1210. When his exiled brother, Hugh, returned to Ireland in 1223, attempting to re-establish his position in Ulster by force of arms, Walter could not restrain William 'Gorm' and many of his own vassals from rising in support. The best he do was to accept the council's proposal that Ludlow and Trim castles should be handed over to the crown for two years as surety for his good conduct and that he accompany William Marshal the younger in the campaign against Hugh, William ‘Gorm' and his own men of Meath. In May 1225 Walter had to submit to the judgement of the royal court, that he pay 3,000 marks for 'seizin of the lands of his knights and free tenants in Ireland ... because they went against the king in Hugh de Lacy's war'. Technically, much of this money was recoverable from those of his men who had risen in revolt but Walter obtained little.
De Lacy debts
After 1225 Walter de Lacy avoided further conflict with the crown and thus additional fines. Yet in 1234-5 £2,747-1-10, more than half of the total, was outstanding on the fines of 1215 and 1225 and a writ of 1238 refers to 'the great debt' which Walter still owed to the king. When he died in 1241 he was beset by debts. The Fine Rolls show that at this time he owed Jewish moneylenders £955-13-4, of which £725 was due to the heirs of Hamo, £150-13-4 to David of Oxford, £40 to Blanche of Hereford and £40 to Cuntessa of Hereford. Larger sums were due to the crown.
It has been suggested that such debts were often forgiven, in whole or in part. This was certainly not the case here for Henry III acted promptly and firmly to secure his interests. In May 1241 a writ of fieri facias was directed to Geoffrey, archdeacon of Dublin, to attach de Lacy's 'corn, stock and other chattels in order to discharge his debts to the king'. In June the Justiciar was ordered 'not to permit Walter's chattels to be administered until his debts to the king are paid' and was informed that 'the king has written to Walter's executor, the bishop of Meath, not to dispose of those chattels without deducting the king's debts'. In September 1242 Margaret de Lacy was allowed have her dower, one third part of her late husband's goods and chattels, so long as the king retains two parts of them in payment of Walter's debts to the king'.
Henry III was just as anxious to ensure that Walter's granddaughters, Matilda and Margaret, and their husbands, Peter de Geneva and John de Verdun met their obligations to Walter's Jewish creditors. In 1245 each couple had to find half the £955-13-4 still owing. Without such pressure it would have been difficult for Moses, now head of the family business, to make his annual payments to 'the works of the church of Westminster', the great building project so close to the king's heart. As late as September 1249, the Irish justiciar was ordered 'to inquire how much remains due' but Matilda de Lacy was 'until further orders ... to have peace touching demands for debts'.
From a range of contemporary records it has been possible to trace the stages in the process by which Walter's inheritance was wasted. Political offences in Ireland during the period 1198-1225 had cost Walter a total of 10,500 marks (£7,000):
i. 1198 - 3,100 marks for 'ravages committed upon the territory of the king in Ireland', 1194 and 400 marks for the return of Ludlow Castle in 1206
ii. 1215 - 4,000 marks for 'harbouring and sustaining' William de Braose in Ireland, 1209-10
iii. 1225 - 3,000 marks when his men of Meath 'went against the king in Hugh de Lacy's war', 1223.
The Pipe Rolls of 1198-1209 show that, although annual payments towards the first fine were regularly maintained, de Lacy still owed the Exchequer £74-13-4 when, thirteen years after his return from his first period of exile, he had to go into exile once again (Table 15).
For the second and third fines no such regular payments were sustained. Indeed, the fluctuations in the size and frequency of payments demanded by John and Henry III reflect nicely the fluctuations in the power relationship between de Lacy and the crown in the years 1215-41. When the crown was under serious political or military pressure, especially in Ireland, Wales or the marches, demands for payment were modified or even temporarily withdrawn. The original agreement with John in 1215 was that the fine should be paid quickly, payments being made at the Dublin Exchequer: 1,000 marks at Michaelmas and the remainder in two equal parts at Easter and Michaelmas 1216. The first sum was received, for the king ordered his Justiciar to deposit it in the church of the Holy Trinity, Dublin, but the deepening political crisis in England persuaded John to deal more leniently with de Lacy, whose assistance was indispensable on the southern march. On 12 April he commanded the justiciar to reduce payments for that year to £500 each term and to 'allow de Lacy, in relief of his debt, whatever has been taken from his (Irish) lands since the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (29 June 1215) when the agreement was made'. Six weeks before the Michaelmas payment was due, fresh orders came to Dublin that Walter was 'to have peace touching this fine ... so long as he shall be on the king's service in England and hold the custody of the king's castle at Hereford'.
Walter's circumstances were transformed by the establishment of the regency. As he was one of its leading members, it is hardly surprising that, eight months after John's death, the council authorised 'a respite regarding the debts which he (Walter) owes'. It is not known when repayment of the 1215 fine was recommenced, for there are few early records of the Dublin Exchequer.
One would have anticipated a harsher regime with the end of the regency, yet shortly after the imposition of the third fine Henry III granted a six-month respite on the 250 mark payment due at Michaelmas, 1225. Little seems to have been paid subsequently, for three years later the king presented de Lacy with an ultimatum relating to the 1225 fine and the residue of that of 1215. If Walter did not pay the prescribed sums of 500 marks annually at Dublin, the justiciar was to take into the king's hands the castle of Trim and so much of Walter's Irish lands as were worth 500 marks a year. Once again Henry relented, accepting an annual payment of 400 marks, further reduced—to 200 marks—in 1230. The following year, whilst Henry was at Hereford in October, de Lacy persuaded him to grant yet another respite—on the half-yearly payment due Michaelmas 1231. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that the records of the Irish Exchequer show £2,747-1-10 (4,120 marks) outstanding in 1234-5; nothing had been paid off the 1225 fine and only 1,780 marks of the 3,000 due on the 1215 fine. Thus between 1216 and 1234 de Lacy had been repaying his fine at an average of about 100 marks a year. Little is known of his financial relations with the crown during the last years of his life.
De Lacy income
How serious a drain were these payments, averaging 250 marks a year between 1198 and 1209 and 100 marks a year between 1216 and 1234? Baronial incomes have been examined by Painter. He showed that knights' fees cannot be taken as a reliable indicator of income but he was able to establish from the Pipe Rolls the annual income of 54 barons in the period 1160-1220. However, as these figures do not take irregular feudal revenues into account, he accepts that they are 'too low for the holders of numerous knights' fees'. Further, prices within the selected time span are not comparable for the years 1180-1220 were one of the three great inflationary periods of recorded English history, when prices of corn, livestock etc. doubled or trebled. Differences of real income within the period will, therefore, be great. Yet, as he says, the figures 'are the best that can be obtained'. The highest income (in 1210) was £800 whilst 20 barons enjoyed less than £100 per annum. The average income of the 54 was £202 and the median only £115. Distribution is shown in Figure 11.
How far does what we know of Walter de Lacy's annual income fit into this picture? The Norman exchequer roll for the last year of Walter's first period of exile, 1198, shows that the profits from his lands were £759-8-5.182 As no other sum appears in the Pipe Rolls it has been argued, convincingly, that this must represent the revenue from all his lands, Irish and English as well as Norman. However, the Norman Exchequer dealt not in sterling but in Angevin currency and it has been estimated that the latter was worth only about a quarter of the former. In this case we have evidence of an income of some £200 per annum for de Lacy at the end of the 12th century. This squares well with the known value of his English estates. There he obtained his revenue from two main sources—demesne land and manors which he rented out. The total value of demesne in Herefordshire with rents was £47 in 1186. The profits of the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire estates fluctuated considerably but a total annual yield of £91-6-0 from the English estates during Walter's minority has been put forward. If one accepts a similar valuation at that time, for the Irish estates the overall figure of £200 per annum seems quite realistic, for the Norman estates were not large. The strain of an annual payment of 250 marks on such an income must have been considerable and this is forcefully illustrated by the marriage contract of Walter de Lacy and Margaret de Braose, in which her father insisted that his son-in-law 'swore not ... to give, sell or mortgage any part of his land to anyone, whereby the heirs of his wife ... might suffer decrease of their inheritance, unless it should be done by consent of Walter de Braose’.
A later valuation of the Irish estates is to be found in the Irish Pipe Rolls for 1211-12, in the detailed accounts of William Petit, royal steward of the lordship of Meath whilst it was in royal hands. Profits from the Lacy demesne manors totalled £239-11-0½, but this does not include the manor of Trim, accounted for elsewhere at £60 for half a year, nor Drogheda on the side of Meath. For Drogheda 'on both sides of the water', that is for Bertram de Verdun's and Hugh de Lacy's boroughs on either side of the Boyne, the farm is given as £26-18-8. The 1211-12 Pipe Roll thus indicates an annual income from the lordship of Meath well in excess of £300. Inflation may account in part for this enhanced figure, but equally important was the introduction by the Anglo-Norman lords into an economy, previously based on cattle grazing, of the most advanced agricultural methods of the age; peasants organised in manors, using the three-field crop rotation; spring as well as winter sowing of wheat, oats, beans and peas; and pigs. The consequent expansion of the economy is well attested by the rapid development of annual fairs, weekly markets and prosperous boroughs and seaports.
De Lacy expenditure: castles
In comparison with this income of over £300 per annum from his Irish estates and some £100 or more from his English lands, the average payment of £66-13-4 per annum made to the crown during the period 1216-34 seems small. But against such an annual income one has to set expenditure incurred in the maintenance of his Irish estates. The Irish Pipe Rolls shows that William Petit's expenditure in the Meath lordship for 1211-12 totalled £273-13-1 and exceeded income by £34-2-0½. Almost all of this was spent on the building and maintenance of castles. Precise details are given. He paid £129-12-0 for what the annals particularly describe as a stone tower at Athlone - to command the passage of the Shannon on the boundary between Meath and Connacht. Apparently, the money was not well spent, for this stone tower, built on an artificial mount, fell down the following year, killing the justiciar's assistant, Richard de Tuit, and eight other Englishmen. £51 was provided for works at the castle at Trim, whilst smaller sums went for work at minor castles, £16-8-9 at Nobber, £6-10-0 at Incheleffer, and £4-16-4 at Kilmore. The accounts of Clones Castle give some idea of the cost of garrisoning a small castle for one year—£6-10-0 for conveying the garrison, £4-10-3 for stores and necessaries, £6 for 12 marchers who remained there 30 days at 3d. a day, and £5-6-8 'for servants who went against the soldiers that deserted'. In another entry, where William Trom renders account for the manor of Trim, the 'allowances' for the castle of Trim are given as 6s. a day, that is £108-10-0 per annum.
The Pipe Roll thus provides a clear picture of the kind of charges Walter de Lacy had to meet in garrisoning the castles of his Irish lordship. But what of construction costs? The stone tower of Athlone, referred to in the 1211-12 accounts, was small by comparison with the stone keep and perimeter defences which he erected at Trim, the centre of his lordship. Trim is the largest castle in Ireland. In design it followed that long line of tower keeps which, beginning with the Tower of London and Colchester, constructed immediately after the Conquest, ended with Dover, 1180-90, the last major English example. Trim is not only the last major British example, it also represents a significant modification of the type, for its square keep has square towers projecting from all four sides. The addition of these towers, which rise over 76 feet, makes Trim a 20-sided figure. There are only two other castles of similar design: one at Warkworth in Northumberland, erected 200 years later, probably on earlier foundations; the other at Castle Rushen in the Isle of Man, which belonged to John de Courcy’s brother-in-law, 1187-1228.
The precise dates of the construction of this de Lacy castle are still in debate. For
Orpen ‘it may be ascribed with much probability to about 1220', the date given by the annals of Innisfallen. Orpen points out that king John found the accommodation too small to hold his court there in 1210, for all his writs are signed at the nearby 'mead of Trim’. Despite this, in 1936, Leask was of the opinion that, on architectural grounds, ‘the keep may be reasonably assigned to 1190-1200' whilst 'the curtain wall, the five remaining mural towers and one of the two gates, the western gate, appear to belong to about1220'. The two ranges of buildings which stood to the north of this gate were perhaps the 'hall, rooms and chambers' occupied by Walter de Lacy when he was assisting William Marshal the younger in the campaign against his brother, Hugh, and his half-brother, William 'Gorm' in 1224 and thus of a similar date to the curtain wall.
More recently Leask has revised his estimate of the date of construction of the keep and has suggested that 'some time around 1212 cannot be very wide of the mark'. Indeed, the references, in the Irish Pipe Roll to payments made at Michaelmas, 1212, include ‘£51or the works at Trim castle' and £2-8-3d. for 193 horses and as many men for one day at the fortification of the castle'. These may well represent the beginning of work on the new keep. Even if the decision to rebuild was a royal one, taken by John after his visit to Trim in 1210, the work would have been far from complete when de Lacy returned from exile in 1213. It is suggestive that, whereas John insisted on retaining the castle of Drogheda in his own hands in 1213, he made no such provision for what became the much more powerful stronghold at Trim.
The chronology of the new work at Trim is important. If Leask is correct in his revised dating of the keep, Walter de Lacy had not only to meet the fine of 4,000 marks imposed on his return from exile, but had at the same time to meet the construction costs of the most formidable castle ever to be built in Ireland. This did not deter him from embarking upon a second building campaign to provide Trim with perimeter defences of the most up-to-date design in the early 1220s but, as we have seen, in the relaxed political atmosphere of the early years of the regency, he was able to view his debts to the crown with greater equanimity.
It is not easy to estimate the cost of building the keep, curtain wall and ancillary structures at Trim. The castle at Dover is similar in a number of respects, but does not provide an altogether satisfactory comparison. It is earlier—built at the beginning of the period of the great inflation—yet constructed to a higher standard and considerably larger. Each side measured some 120 feet, whilst de Lacy's keep was only 65 feet across the main structure and 110 feet across the projecting towers. At Trim, as at Dover, the perimeter defences were added later but even with a curtain wall some 1,500 feet in length and five D-shaped towers, enclosing an area of more than three acres, those at Trim are considerably less substantial.
Thus, whilst de Lacy's costs at Trim would not have rivalled the royal expenditure at Dover, which even by 1190 totalled almost £7,000, they must certainly be thought of in the thousands rather than hundreds of pounds and must, therefore, have been of the same order as the fines imposed upon him in 1198, 1215 and 1225. Expenditure of this magnitude could not have been met out of current income. If one accepts the chronology proposed above, most of these costs were incurred at the very time Walter enjoyed a close relationship with Hamo and the Jewish community at Hereford. It is interesting to note that of the expenditure of Hubert de Burgh, the justiciar, on the royal castle at Dover in 1220-21, £604 was met by a loan from the Jew, Isaac of Norwich.
Longtown Castle has been held to be a late 12th-century structure. This ascription was based on the character of the beaded rosettes or roundels, late Romanesque in style, carved on the dressed stone voussoirs of one of the ground-floor windows. By demonstrating that these are 're-used pieces', Richard Hartley has shown that the building was constructed 'after 1200'. This round keep must be the work of Walter de Lacy unless, which is most unlikely, it was built by John fitz Geoffrey after he acquired Ewias Lacy in 1234.
Should it be assigned to the period before de Lacy went into exile for the second 1209, or to that after his return in 1213? For most of the earlier period he was fully engaged in the affairs of his Irish lordship; on his return, however, he regained Ludlow Castle and fully re-established himself in the southern march. From August 1215 to November 1223 his principal responsibility, as sheriff of Herefordshire, was to secure the county against Welsh attack. Longtown was not only the centre of his exposed Ewias lordship but, situated where the Monnow, Olchon and Escley valleys come together under the brow of the Black Mountains, it was of vital strategic importance for the whole shire. The foundation of Craswall a few miles up the Monnow from Longtown further emphasises Walter's interests in the area at this time. In November 1223 he lost the shrievalty and the next year the revolt of his men of forced his return to Ireland. These events point to the latest date for the commencement of the works at Longtown being 1223. This castle, with those at Hay, Monmouth, St. Briavels and Abergavenny, was at the centre of royal operations against Richard Marshal and Llewelyn in 1233 and was visited by Henry III on his journey from Hay to Abergavenny in the first days of September.
However, if one accepts these dates for Longtown, the great rectangular keep at Trim, at least in its design and early building stages, must pre-date Walter's second period of exile. The last major British example of its type, it represents the end of a tradition a century and a half old. Longtown belongs to a different world—a world to which the later works at Trim, the perimeter defences with their D-shaped towers, dated by Leask as 'about 1220', also belong.
What is the relationship of Longtown to the other round keeps of Wales and the southern march? Inspired by French examples, the great keep at Pembroke was the first of those circular towers or donjons that were to characterise castle-building in the early years of the reign of Henry III. It was the work of William Marshal the elder, constructed soon after his marriage in 1189 to Isabella, heiress of Strongbow, Richard de Clare, earl of Pembroke and conqueror of Leinster. Because its purpose was to guard the short sea crossing between Wales and Ireland, so vital to the Anglo-Norman lords, Walter de Lacy must have been well acquainted with it. The Garrison Tower at Usk is held to have also been the work of William Marshal and to have been built between 1212 and 1219.
Longtown belongs to the second generation of round keeps, as do Caldicot and Skenfrith, the latter being the work of Hubert de Burgh 1219-32. They are characterised by semi-circular projections or buttresses, of which Skenfrith and Caldicot each has one whilst Longtown has three. One of these buttresses was used at Longtown, and at Skenfrith, to accommodate a spiral staircase. Longtown was copied by at least one of de Lacy's tenants. At Lyonshall, where they held a knight's fee of the de Lacy honour of Weobley, a member of the d'Ebroicis family, possibly Stephen, a firm supporter of king John and a benefactor of Kings Pyon, later Wormsley, Priory, rebuilt their castle on this circular plan. The remains of the keep, which stand about five feet above ground level on a low platform, show that in external diameter, 37 feet, it was much smaller than Longtown which, at 45 feet, in no way rivalled Pembroke's 53 feet. A construction date of about 1227, when Stephen d'Ebroicis was granted a 'weekly market on Friday at the manor of Lenhal and a yearly fair there on the vigil, feast and morrow of SS Simon and Jude' (28 October), would fit well in the chronology proposed above for Longtown. The northern, outer, enclosure at Lyonshall, still marked off to east and west by a wet moat, may well have been the market area and is in some ways parallel to the village enclosure lying to the south of the bailey at Longtown. Stephen was also one of Hamo's clients. In the Fine Rolls for 1245 there is a reference to money 'due from Walter d'Ebroicis' on his father's debt to Hamo.
Little more can be said about Walter de Lacy's English castle-building. Although Ludlow, which was in king John's hands for most of his reign, was much more formidable in terms of structure and site, Weobley remained, at least in name, the head of the honour. Nothing can now be seen above ground of the structure of Weobley Castle but Leland, in the reign of Henry VIII, described it as 'a fayr castel of my Lord Ferrars', but 'somewhat in decay'. Fortunately, there is an early, if somewhat diagrammatic plan, obtained by Silas Taylor in 1655, which shows a keep with round corner towers, surrounded by a curtain wall with round towers at its four corners and two D-shaped towers in the middle of the eastern and western perimeter wall. These round towers, it has been suggested, 'seem to indicate that the former masonry castle was of the 13th century'. One doubts that the Irish political interests of the de Verdons, Walter's successors at Weobley, would have been served by such a building programme. Certainly Weobley's perimeter defences were similar to those of Skenfrith and Trim. At Ludlow the only major work of the 13th century is the semicircular Mortimer's tower which overlooks the Teme at the south-western extremity of the outer bailey. Of Castle Frome less can be said. The first documented use of the term 'Castle' at this site is in 1249, since when it has remained in regular use.
To summarise, in addition to his works at Trim Walter de Lacy had to finance the construction of the round keep at Longtown as well as works at his other marcher castles, to bring them up to the new standards now required in the light of continental experience. All this was at a time when finance was readily available from the Jewish community at Hereford.
De Lacy expenditure: litigation
Royal fines and the cost of castle building were the main items of extraordinary expenditure that Walter de Lacy had to meet but there were others, for which it is difficult to provide a satisfactory estimate, of which litigation is the most notable. One example must suffice.
This was a six-year legal confrontation. It involved a series of expensive appeals to Rome, between Margaret and Walter de Lacy and the powerful Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, over the affiliation of the nunnery founded by Margaret at Aconbury on the land given to her by king John. The original charter of 1216 spoke of 'three carucates of land in our forest of Aconbury'. Two years later John Marshal, nephew of the regent, chief justice of the forests, (and one of the creditors of Hamo's family in the 1244 list), was commanded 'to take ... the sheriffs of Hereford and Gloucester and 12 prudent knights of the county of Gloucester and in the faith which you hold us, assess reasonably for Margaret wife of Walter de Lacy, three carucates of land in Aconbury, that is to say a carucate of six times 20 acres, by our perch of 24 feet'.
The council's instructions betoken a healthy concern about the conflict of interests experienced by the sheriff of Hereford, one of their number. Not only was his wife the beneficiary, but he was the lord of the adjacent manor - Holme Lacy. The Gloucestershire contingent was despatched to ensure impartiality and a postscript was added to the instructions to the chief justice of the forests. He was to 'guard carefully the land remaining and enquire diligently about any deforestation' which had already taken place. Nevertheless, a later charter of Henry III confirms to the nuns 'all of the forest of Aconbury except Athelstan's wood', an area immediately to the east of Little Birch.
It was a number of years before the nuns were installed. Without consulting her husband or her diocesan, Margaret seems to have left much of the business in the hands of the Knights Hospitallers, probably in the person of the preceptor of the commandery at Dinmore. When she brought some women to the house, now completed, they were professed and clothed by the Hospitallers. Margaret, 'in her simplicity' as she later wrote to the pope, believed that, according to her wish, they professed the Augustinian rule, for this was the rule they observed in their divine service. However, in April 1233, she learned to her horror that they were Hospitallers and as such 'they were bound to go to other places and cross the seas and that her purpose would be frustrated'. She appealed directly to the pope who empowered the nuns to leave the Hospitallers and live by the Augustinian rule.
The Hospitallers, quickly roused to action, pointed out that anyone who had taken the cross was prohibited from joining another order. Margaret appealed to Rome a second time. As a compromise, it was suggested that the older women be left at Aconbury, 'to take care of the poor and sick of the hospital', whilst the remainder were to be placed in other, presumably Augustinian, houses. Again the Hospitallers' response was rapid; they obtained papal letters empowering the prior of St. Albans to judge the matter. Margaret de Lacy answered by refusing to travel outside the diocese in pursuit of her cause. As a result the prior proposed to fine her £630 for contumacy and to place the nunnery in the possession of the Hospitallers. Further appeals to Rome in 1234 led to the case being re-opened before the bishop of Coventry, by which time Margaret had decided that she had better seek the assistance of her husband. Even so, the conflict continued.
In 1236 Walter and Margaret appealed jointly to Rome in their efforts to reverse the decision about the convent at Aconbury, 'about which there has been much litigation for four years and an expenditure of 600 marks'. The bishop of St. Asaphs, the abbot of Dore and the penitentiary of Hereford were appointed in April 'to revoke what had been done ... to relax any sentences of excommunication, collect all papal letters obtained on either side and remit the matter to the pope ordering the parties to appear personally or by proctors to receive sentence'. Walter de Lacy must have exercised considerable pressure at Rome for this cut right across the Hospitallers' right to freedom from attendance at any court which was more than two days' journey from their English headquarters at Clerkenwell Priory.
The conflict had a serious impact on the nunnery: for six years the election of a prioress had been postponed; the nuns were now divided into two factions; and the Hospitaller priest appointed to hear confessions and minister the sacraments was accused of 'ill conduct'. Only in August 1237 was the matter finally resolved - in favour of the de Lacys - when the papal legate received instructions from Rome 'to free the sisters of the monastery of Cornbury ... from the observation of the order of the Hospitallers and to allow them to profess the rule of St. Augustine, the Hospitallers having for five years put difficulties in the way of their doing this'. Walter's efforts at Rome had eventually enabled Margaret to have her way, but the cost of her 'simplicity' was far in excess of the 600 marks referred to in the appeal eighteen months earlier. The Hospitallers, with their international organisation and their powerful connections in Rome, were formidable opponents.
Pressure from Jewish creditors
Some years before this costly victory, de Lacy faced a severe financial crisis. During the minority and the years immediately following, he had successfully reduced or postponed payment of the annual sums due to the exchequer. By 1232 circumstances had changed; Henry Ill's own dire need for cash meant a far stricter regime for all who owed him money, but especially for the Jews. De Lacy was thus subjected to persistent pressure from his Jewish creditors, principally Ursell of Hereford and his brothers, and David of Oxford, who were being squeezed by the king.
Royal pressure on Walter's Jewish creditors took a number of forms. Tallages on the Jews increased steeply after 1232. More particularly, after Hamo's death, his family was hard pressed to meet the terms of the relief imposed by the king; 1,000 of the 6,000 marks had to be paid immediately; the remainder at the rate of 300 marks each year. That was not all. A number of substantial debts due to the family were pardoned by paper adjustments of the total due to the crown. Thus Ursell, obliged to exert whatever pressure he could on the de Lacys, his major clients, brought a number of actions in the courts to obtain either repayment of these loans or the right to distrain the lands on which they had been secured.
As a result of this breach with Hamo's family, Walter was forced to look for financial assistance elsewhere. In August 1234, he made William de Lucy of Charlecote, in Warwickshire, steward of his English lands and constable of Ludlow Castle. It was to this newly-appointed steward that Walter turned for assistance. William de Lucy agreed to redeem all his Jewish debts—except the two largest, those due to Hamo's heirs and David of Oxford to whom about £1,000 was owing. William's loan, which amounted to £322, was to be paid at the rate of £80 per annum. In case of default Walter bound himself and his heirs 'to abide by such ecclesiastical censure and ... penance ... as the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Salisbury and Bath should impose on them that were debtors to those signed with the cross, the said William de Lucy being so signed'. There was no reference to interest in the agreement but this was evidently, a straightforward moneylending transaction, for William de Lucy had been involved in such activity as early as 1228.
The cash placed at de Lacy's disposal came from a fortune acquired in the royal service which William had inherited from his brother, Stephen, in 1230. Amongst other offices, Stephen de Lucy had, from 1227 to 1228, held in custody the see of Durham, one of the richest in the country, and with it the castle and county palatine. From this and other sources Stephen built up, in Sir William Dugdale's phrase, 'a great personal estate' of which his brother soon became the principal beneficiary.
Walter was also bedevilled by family problems. He had had three children by Margaret de Braose, whom he had married in 1200. His only son, Gilbert, was one of the hostages demanded by John after Walter's return from his second period of exile in 1213. On attaining his majority, Gilbert was granted his father's Herefordshire lands. This must have been by 1228, for in that year there is a release to Gilbert of the lands of Stephen Devereux (d'Ebroicis) that were part of his fee. He married Isabel, daughter of Hugh Bigod and Matilda Marshal. A number of Gilbert's charters relating to his Herefordshire lands are to be found in the dean and chapter records. In September 1228, along with such other local dignitaries as John de Balun and Walter Baskerville, he was summoned to New Montgomery for service under the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, in the disastrous Kerry campaign. By this time Gilbert was himself in debt to the Jews, for eighteen months later, in May 1230, the king pardoned the interest on these debts whilst he was on the royal service in France. Apparently it was there that he died, for in December Walter was given possession of 'all the lands of his son, now dead, which were of his grant'.
This was a double blow. Walter lost both his only son, whom he was evidently grooming to take care of the family's English lands, and the old Lacy honour of Ewias (Longtown), which had been granted as a dower to Isabel Bigod on her marriage to Gilbert. Isabel subsequently married John fitz Geoffrey, a man high in Henry Ill's favour and justiciar of Ireland 1245-56, and in 1234 their claim to Ewias Lacy was upheld.
This was not all. Gilbert left three children, two daughters and a son, Walter. In 1238 this young boy was formally recognised by Walter as his heir, but he died before his grandfather. Thus, on the latter's death in 1241, the estates passed out of de Lacy hands when they were divided between his two granddaughters, Matilda and Margaret, married respectively to Peter de Geneva and John de Verdun.
The death of his son, Gilbert, in 1230 obliged Walter to call upon the services of the de Lacys at Cressage in Shropshire, his kinsmen but rather shadowy figures. Gilbert de Lacy II of Cressage is the Gilbert of (Castle) Frome of the 1244 list and it is only through his relationship with Walter that his enormous loan of £600 can be explained for these de Lacys were only minor landowners. According to Eyton, Gilbert II was the grandson of Hugh II de Lacy's brother, Almaric. With only one knight's fee held of the Lacy honour of Weobley at Frome and a small estate at Cressage and Harnage, it would have been impossible for him to find adequate guarantees for a loan of such magnitude without the support of someone of the status of Walter de Lacy. Apart from a note, indicating some sort of fortification, in the Balliol Domesday, the first reference to a castle at Frome is in 1242-3 and this may well have been the fruit of their association. Subsequent references to the castle are to be found in 1249, 1268 and 1271. In 1291 it was, briefly, From' Castelli Regis, by which date the title had become firmly established.
Some of Gilbert of Frome's 1244 debt of £600 was inherited from his father, Gilbert of Cressage, for on the latter's death in 1233 his lands were in mortgage to Ursell for money borrowed from Hamo. In 1234 Ursell brought proceedings to distrain some of Gilbert of Frome's lands for these debts, but it was proved to the court's satisfaction that the Harnage estate had been 'given' to the abbot and monks of the neighbouring Cistercian abbey at Buildwas. As the building campaign of this small house had been completed by 1200 it had money available for such investments from the profits of its wool trade. At the personal request of the archbishop of Canterbury Henry III intervened in these proceedings and ordered Ursell to leave the abbot in peaceful possession of Harnage, which was declared to be 'free in perpetuity of mortgage for the said debt'. The 'gift' of Harnage to Buildwas represented an unredeemed mortgage raised by Gilbert of Cressage with the monks, who had thus augmented their estates with adjacent lands.
The monks' interest in Harnage may well have related to its quarries, an important source of stone roofing slate. Their earliest documented use is at Harley in 1367 but they were found in archaeological contexts at Pride Hill and Castle Gates, Shrewsbury. In the 16th century they were used at the Grammar School, the Drapers' Hall and other major buildings in that town. The monks were also granted 'free passage through his (Gilbert's) land ... to the Severn to wash their sheep, in going, returning, and pasturing them, until the washing be completed'.
In 1253 another such transaction came to light when the abbot of Buildwas appeared with a claim upon Cressage itself—no doubt a further mortgage, this time raised by Gilbert of Frome. When the latter died in 1249, the inheritance of his son, Adam, was still deeply encumbered by debts to Hamo's heirs. Adam was the ward of Walter de Lacy's granddaughter, Matilda, and she persuaded Henry III that Moses should receive neither principal nor interest until Adam came of age. Such were the difficulties that beset Hamo's heirs in their attempts to secure the return of money lent to the de Lacys.
Alienation of Land: Holme Lacy, Stanton Lacy, lands in the Forest of Dean.
Walter's financial difficulties became so acute that, on a number of occasions, he was forced into the sale of some of his English estates. This was evidently an option considered as early as 1200 for, as part of the marriage contract to Margaret de Braose he had to promise not to 'give, sell or mortgage' any of his lands without his father-in-law's consent. De Braose's death in 1211 released Walter from his covenant and by the reign of Henry III he was divesting himself of lands in the southern march by all three means. This can be seen most clearly at Holme Lacy but at least two of those who obtained control of Lacy lands there also acquired Lacy assets elsewhere—estates at Weobley, Stanton Lacy, Aylburton and Hewelsfield, a fulling mill at Ludlow and an itinerant forge in the Forest of Dean.
The principal elements in the strange story of the manor of Holme Lacy between 1066 and 1256 were established by H. M. Colvin thirty-five years ago. Hamme, as it was then called, was one of those Herefordshire episcopal estates which, in the words of the Domesday scribe, had been 'unjustly held' by king Harold. After the conquest Hamme, with other manors, was returned to the see for 'the sustenance of the canons'. It is, therefore, ironic that, not long after, the bishops should have allowed it to pass from their hands once again. The de Lacys managed, by the exercise of aristocratic pressure, to establish their rights in the manor which thus became Holme Lacy. Yet early in the 13th century Walter de Lacy was granting it away, in parcels of varying size, to a number of different parties. Even stranger, these were subsequently 'prevailed upon' by bishops Ralph Maidstone (1234-39) and Peter Aquablanca (1240-68) to part with the lands. The two bishops were thus able to 'undo the work of their predecessors' and once more the manor was restored 'to those for whose support it had originally been reserved'.
The break-up of the manor had already begun before de Lacy granted '202 acres of land in my wood of Hamme' to Craswall Priory. His charter, usually held to have been granted about 1225 but probably earlier, describes this gift as 'all the land which extends in length from Ferneleg to le Ebroc by the road which is called Ridgeway and in breadth from the Ridgeway to Hathinehale, by the one side the land of Peter Undergod, and from the lands of the nuns of Aconbury to the land of the lord William fitz Warin just as the great highway divides the said lands ...'. Peter Undergod and William fitz Warin were therefore established on de Lacy lands before that date.
Although they came from very different social backgrounds, both were close to the de Lacy family and both founded hospitals locally, Undergod at Ludlow and fitz Warin at Hereford. Their inspiration was, no doubt, Margaret de Lacy's foundation at Aconbury which had the care of the poor and the sick as its primary function, although it later became for the most part a finishing school for the daughters of the local aristocracy. Strangely neither Undergod nor fitz Warin chose to use their lands at Holme Lacy as part of the endowment of their respective institutions. It is almost as if they anticipated the difficulties the monks of Craswall and others were to experience at the hands of Walter's Jewish creditors.
Peter Undergod ended his days as warden of the hospital he had founded 'at my own cost near the bridge over the river Teme at Ludlow, in honour of the Holy Trinity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist'. He was, however, of very humble origins. He had made a fortune as a merchant at Ludlow, but lacked the right in law, basic to all burgesses, to make a will and devise his property as he wished, a right which, as a bondsman, he had to purchase by a special licence from his lord, Walter de Lacy. Some of the endowments of St. John's Hospital were purchased from the de Lacys. The foundation charter refers to 'all my fulling mill with watercourse, with all the suits of all men of Ludlow who have cloth to full ... with all liberties and easements pertaining to the said mill in ways, roads, waters and pools in all places within the town of Ludlow ... which I bought of Gilbert, son of Walter de Lacy'.
The Hundred Rolls refer to eight virgates of land at Akes, now Rock in Stanton Lacy, as being 'of the eleemosynary grant of Walter de Lacy' which Eyton tersely describes as 'not quite the whole truth'. As there is no reference to such a gift of land from Walter de Lacy in the foundation charter, these eight virgates must have come into the hospital's possession subsequently. At the foundation, Peter Undergod certainly had given some land he had bought in Akes to the hospital, but the amount is not specified. Was this rounded off by the acquisition from Gilbert or Walter de Lacy of further land there? In 1246 Hamo's son, Moses, tried to distrain certain of the hospital's lands for debts due from Walter de Lacy's heirs but the action was barred by the sheriff of Shropshire on the king's instructions. Was this, one wonders, another of those apparent benefactions which were in reality transfers of land made under pressure of debt? Certainly Undergod established himself on Lacy lands elsewhere for his name is associated with that of Gilbert de Lacy in a dispute with Nicholas le Petit over a carucate of land at Weobley.
William fitz Warin appears in the 1244 list of the clients of Hamo's. His career will be looked at later, but his acquisitions from Walter de Lacy must be examined now. Fitz Warin's original intention is explained in one of his charters 'unexpectedly met with' by Matthew Gibson whilst 'searching after the Antiquities of this Parish' and published by him in 1727 in one of the appendices to his View of the Ancient and Present State of the Churches of Door, Holme Lacy and Hempsted. In that charter fitz Warin granted, 'for the safety of his soul and that of his wife, Agnes,' all his land with the wood at Holme Lacy to establish there a Premonstratensian abbey dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury. A second charter referred to by Gibson describes endowments including 'the whole Manor of Albriston and Huldesfeld, with all the Rents, Homages and Services appertaining to the said Manour', which he 'and his Heirs would warrant and defend to the said abbot and convent against all men and women for evermore'.
By 1224-5 fitz Warin had abandoned these plans. Instead he had begun to build a hospital at Hereford, for the Charter Rolls show that in that year he received five oaks from the nearby forest of Trivel as a royal gift to help him in his pious works. The dedication was to remain the same. Fitz Warin's foundation was for lepers whilst Undergod's was for the poor and aged but there was a notable similarity in terms of site. Both were in towns by important bridging points on the vital route along the Welsh march from Chepstow to Chester. A royal charter confirming fitz Warin's gifts to St. Thomas' Hospital, Hereford, indicates that it lay 'between the land of Alexander the Lorimer and the Waye' (river Wye) on land 'purchased from Hugh, son of Ailmund'. This riverside site was south of Wye Bridge in St. Martin's parish for a deodand of 1221 refers to 'the lepers across the Wye'. Further references to the site occur in 1320 in the will of John de Aquablanca, dean of Hereford, who left 12d. each to 'the lepers across the Wye and towards Yezeyne' and in 1338 in the legacy of Thomas de la Barre, citizen of Hereford, 'to the houses of the sick beyond the Wye and on Yene'. The land immediately upstream of Wye Bridge is liable to serious flooding so fitz Warin's leper hospital must have been on the other side of the road, not far from where the Saracen's Head now stands.
The principal endowment of the leper house was what the Charter Rolls call the manor of 'Ailbricton and Huwaldesfeld', the lands mentioned in Gibson's second charter. It has been assumed that it lay in Herefordshire, but the estates in question are in fact Aylburton and Hewelsfield then within the bounds of the Forest of Dean. A chapel had been established at Hewelsfield by 1158-9 and another at Aylburton, not long after. They are recorded as a de Lacy manor in the Pipe Rolls for 1166-7 and 1175-6 but subsequently came into the hands of William fitz Warin and Philip de Colevill, de Lacy's steward before the appointment of de Lucy in 1234. The value of these vills was in part related to the working of iron, for they were not deforested until 1298, and then only temporarily. When the council of regency tried in 1217 to control the activity of private forges in Dean because of the devastating effect they had on the woodland the first exception they made, in 1219, was 'the itinerant forge' which William fitz Warin 'had of Walter de Lacy'. By this date, therefore, Walter de Lacy had already divested himself of assets in the Forest.
The other endowments of St. Thomas' Hospital were not of de Lacy origin. Marden Mill, granted by fitz Warin in frankalmoin to 'the hospital by the bridge of Wye in Hereford saving 2s payable to the king at Michaelmas' had been given to him by king John. A piece of land at Eign Gate, Hereford, came from Henry III. On this fitz Warin built a mill to serve the hospital and the poor of the neighbourhood 'above the water which is called Senewell'. The sheriff and a jury of citizens were to ensure that fitz Warin and the prior of the hospital gave adequate guarantees to make good any damage that their works might cause to the adjacent town wall.
The land with the wood at Hamme acquired by fitz Warin from de Lacy and originally intended for the proposed Holme Lacy abbey was granted not to his hospital by Wye Bridge but to the Premonstratensian canons of Lavendon. This was an abbey only a short distance from fitz Warin's manor house at Ravenstone in Buckinghamshire. The land was returned to the cathedral under strange circumstances. Fitz Warin died about 1237. Amicia, his granddaughter and heiress, had married William de Lucy the younger, son of Walter de Lacy's steward. The Lucys, father and son, came to an agreement with Bishop Aquablanca whereby if they could 'by exchange or any other means deliver the land of Holme Lacy, which was William fitz Warin's, from the abbot and convent of Lavendon', it would be given to the cathedral in free alms. The deed recording the transfer of land from Lavendon to the see of Hereford for £100 is countersigned by two of the Justices of the Exchequer of the Jews, a sure indication that the transfer was part of a settlement of Jewish debts. Whose debts it is not clear, possibly those of de Lucy the younger, as the heir of William fitz Warin. Moses' loan, due for repayment in 1233-4 had not been met but, according to the 1244 list, only £33-6-8 was outstanding on that account. There may, therefore, have been other loans, contracted by de Lucy the younger on his own account, for it is known that by 1260 he was deeply indebted to Elias le Blund of London; or the transaction might have been part of a complex deal undertaken by de Lucy the elder to placate some of the more insistent of Walter de Lacy's creditors.
The largest transfer of land at Holme Lacy had been to the Grandmontine house at Craswall: firstly 204 acres of wood; all the demesne and the manor house somewhat later. Rose Graham has suggested that de Lacy founded the house about 1225. It may well have been founded earlier, between the peace made with Llewelyn in 1218 and de Lacy's loss of the shrievalty in 1223, because Walter was embroiled in Irish affairs after that date.230 By 1233, despite a royal charter given only two years earlier confirming them in possession of all their lands, the Craswall brethren found themselves in serious difficulties with de Lacy's creditors, Ursell in particular, and had to resort to Henry III for relief. In January 1234, the king granted that 'they shall not be destrained for their lands at Holme Lacy which they have of the gift of Walter de Lacy on account of any of the debts of the said Walter owed to the Jewry, but if necessary he shall be destrained by other of his lands'.
Ursell never got full satisfaction. After his death and that of Walter de Lacy, his brother Moses had to meet part, at least, of the fine of £3,000 to inherit the family estate or, as the crown described it, 'the debts of Hamo'. This led to further pressure on the corrector and brethren at Craswall and in 1242 Henry had to intervene yet again on their behalf. He repeated his earlier prohibition and, to prevent any further difficulties, ordered that it be now enrolled by the Justices of the Jews. The long history of action against the Holme Lacy estates of the Craswall monks suggests very strongly that, although 'given' to Craswall, they had been used as security for the large loans Walter had negotiated with Hamo. Undoubtedly it was this persistent harassment by de Lacy's creditors which persuaded Reginald, the corrector, to sell the priory's lands at Holme Lacy to Peter de Aquablanca in 1253 for 500 marks. Bishop Peter was well able to look after himself.
The last years
All the evidence indicates that Hamo's death in 1231 created serious problems for de Lacy. The firm relationship of confidence built up between Hamo and Walter over more than a decade had now been lost. It would have taken time, even under the most favourable circumstances, for Ursell, young and inexperienced in dealing with such a powerful figure, to establish an effective working relationship but circumstances were far from favourable. Ursell had to find 1,000 marks of the vast 6,000 mark relief immediately and subsequent annual payments of 300 marks a year. In addition, he faced serious loss of income, occasioned by the royal practice of giving, not only pardons from interest, but also respite from repayment of the principal to those in the service of the crown at home and abroad. Worse, he had to cope with the pardoning of the debts themselves, such as the 1,000 marks owed by Walter de Clifford in 1233, which was justified by the expedient of deducting it from the 5,000 marks still due to the king. Indeed, the severity of Ursell's plight was recognised by the crown, for he was freed from liability for tallage until he had completed payment of the relief.
Inevitably, the de Lacys felt the full consequences of Ursell's financial difficulties. In March 1232 'certain Jews' sought possession of one of the most valuable of Walter's English manors, Britford in Wiltshire, which in 1186-7 had yielded an annual income of £37-19-10. This action was frustrated when the king ordered the sheriff of the county to ensure that de Lacy had unimpeached possession of Britford. Indeed, eleven months earlier in April 1231, it had already been used as security when Walter borrowed money from the London merchant, Richard fitz John. This was to be repaid in Irish wool, twelve sacks according to Irish weight, to be delivered to fitz John's messenger at the port of Drogheda before the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, 24 June. Whilst Walter was responsible for the cost of transport to Bristol, risk of loss en route was to be born by fitz John. If the latter incurred any other cost or expense through Walter's neglect he could retain the manor until he got full satisfaction. Fitz John sought additional security, a clear indication of how low Walter's credit had fallen—his seneschal, Simon de Clifford, and one of his knights, Henry de Bradelye, had to bind themselves by affidavit as guarantors.
Shortly afterwards Ursell, probably with royal assistance, managed to establish terms for the repayment of his money. Unfortunately for him, Walter was once more called away on the royal service to Ireland and used the occasion to persuade the king, whilst he was at Ledbury on 15 December 1233, that, though the terms should stand, the first repayment should be postponed to the following Whitsun and meanwhile the payment of interest should cease. Reference here is to the 1,000 marks (£666-13-4). As this debt appears in the 1244 list, 'due 200 marks yearly, upon mortgage, the first term being Michaelmas, 1233' it is clear that Ursell never received a penny.
Walter managed to satisfy his other Jewish creditors for the moment by his arrangement with William de Lucy of Charlecote appointed steward in 1234, but by 1238 he was being pursued again. In the spring of that year he had to send John the Butler, his groom (vadlettus) to the royal court at Marlborough to petition for the restoration of his manor of Weobley, which had been destrained by his creditors. A week or so later his bailiff, Adam de Kyuesac, was sent to the court, now at Gloucester for Easter, on a similar mission in relation to the manors of Ludlow and Stanton Lacy. There is no record of the final outcome of these cases, but the Close Rolls show that in 1240 he was again hard pressed by his creditors. When Aaron of York, very evidently impatient of repeated delay, brought an action in the royal courts on 22 September for the recovery of 140 marks due at Michaelmas from William de Lucy, as Walter's agent, the crown once again granted a postponement, but only until the meeting of the Exchequer of the Jews at Martinmas (11 November) 1240. By 19 December a further action had been brought, by Aaron, son of Abraham, Elias le Blund, Aaron le Blund and Samuel, his son, and Samuel 1'Evesk, all of London, and David of Oxford. Henry III, whose patience was now exhausted, commanded the barons of the Exchequer to brook no further delay. Walter's possessions were to be destrained.
By 1237 he had to face a much more formidable opponent than his Jewish creditors. Amongst the Miscellenea of the Exchequer are details of an action brought by Warin de Munchensi, described by Matthew Paris as one of 'the noblest and wisest barons of England and zealous defender of the peace and liberty of the realm', against Walter de Lacy and others for lands etc. in Shropshire, Herefordshire and elsewhere. The suit was complex and was pursued for at least five years. It is of great interest because Munchensi had evidently bought up a number of the gages Walter had given to his Jewish creditors and was now seeking to gain possession of those lands through the courts.
Amongst those who had to defend estates they had acquired from de Lacy were William fitz Warin (one carucate), Peter Undergod (one carucate), Walter de Lucy (the two carucates of the manor of Ludlow which had been granted him with the stewardship in 1234) and the prior of Craswall (three carucates and one mill, clearly the Holme Lacy lands). There are others. 'Walterkin' de Lacy was called as a witness by William de Fenes to warrant his father, Gilbert de Lacy's charter for one carucate in Downton, Stanton Lacy, now claimed by Munchensi. Another carucate was claimed from Henry de Bradelye, one of Walter's knights. By 1238 Walter de Lacy had 'rendered' his castle of Ludlow and William de Lucy the two carucates of demesne land there to Munchensi. As in so many other cases, there is no record of the final outcome but it is known that de Lacy's granddaughters ultimately inherited both castle and demesne at Ludlow. Possibly settlement was achieved out of court, for Munchensi seems to have acquired a vast fortune by such means as this. According to Matthew Paris, he left 200,000 marks at his death in 1225.
Walter's health had deteriorated since December 1237, when he had been unable to fulfil his responsibilities in Ireland owing to infirmity. Now he was blind. Within two months of his English lands being distrained, he was dead. As soon as the king heard the news, he ordered the sheriffs of Herefordshire and Shropshire to take possession of the dead man's lands to secure the crown's financial interests. As we have seen, Henry III, ignoring de Lacy's signal loyalty to his father and himself in the dark days of 1216-7, was not prepared to forgo the 'great debts' which Walter owed him and it was many years before Walter's heirs secured their full inheritance.
The last words come from the chroniclers, for they present a contrast which sums up Walter de Lacy's career. The Englishman Matthew Paris tells us that, when Walter de Lacy died, he 'left only his wasted inheritance to his (grand)daughters' but to the annalist of Clonmacnoise, Walter was 'the bountifullest foreigner in steeds, attire and gold that ever came to Erin'.