Held at:

Private collection




Craswall Grandmontine Society et al.


Commentary on the Death and Burial of Walter II de Lacy

Place name:

Ewyas Lacy, Craswall




Walter II de Lacy, Lord of Meath, Ludlow & Weobley, Sheriff of Herefordshire, was born c 1172 in Ewyas Lacy, and died “blind and infirm” on 24th February 1241 at [according to some sources] his castle at Trim, Meath, Ireland [ ref ‘The Lords of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy ]. He was the last of the line of de Lacy Marcher Lords of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy and founder of the Grandmontine Priory at Craswall. He was also a substantial benefactor of both Llanthony and Craswall Priories during his lifetime, as well as of various religious foundations in Ireland. The presumption was that if he died in Ireland he was also buried there, until excavations at Craswall Priory by CJ Lilwall in the early 1900s uncovered a stone coffin in pride of place near the altar under the floor in the Priory chapel. It contained a full-size adult skeleton, and cast doubt on this version of Walter’s death and burial.

The archive of the Craswall Grandmontine Society describes the debate that followed:


In his book, ‘Something about Craswall Priory near Hay’ (1910), Lilwall tells us ‘perhaps the most interesting discovery up to the present has been that of a large stone coffin lying under the pavement of the church, and at a depth of five feet, in the middle of the Church itself, in front of the lower step leading up to the high altar (see Plan 2). Huge flagstones lay on the coffin, and it required a large amount of labour to remove them. When this was done a perfect skeleton was exposed, which measured six feet two inches in length. When the coffin was first open the skeleton was entire, but in the course of an hour it had crumbled away. Fragments of the oak coffin in which the remains were at first interred were also found.’ Stallybrass places the coffin north-south on his 1913 plan, but Clapham shows it east-west on both his 1926 plan, when it was still visible but ‘lacking its cover’, and again in 1931, as did Wright in 1962, when he showed the narrow foot end facing east (8 on Plan 2).

Clapham suggested the coffin was ‘probably of one of the founder’s family’, possibly that of Walter II de Lacy’s only son and heir, Gilbert. He was well aware of the three Craswall foundation charters at Christ’s College, Cambridge (see Foundation and Documentary Evidence), and of documentary evidence from Alberbury, where in 1226 its founder, Fulk fitz Warin III, whose wife Matilda had died, gave 24 acres for her soul and for her body to be buried in the priory church. Clapham points out that the bodies of Fulk and his two wives were found buried before the presbytery steps just to the east of the monks stall, ‘a position exactly analogous to the important burial at Craswall’. At Egton in 1294 the patron, Peter de Morley III, confirmed his grant of the local mill to the corrector and prior for there to be two more chaplains, ‘to say daily masses for the souls of he and his wife [Nicolaa] and their ancestors’.

However the Tewkesbury annals record that ‘Gilbert de Lacy, son and heir of Walter de Lacy, is buried at Llanthony’, one of the most handsome priories in Wales, for which Walter and his father had provided the resources. If the skeleton at Craswall was not that of Gilbert, it must have been of Walter himself, for the Grandmontine Custumal prohibited burial within the precinct of all but monks and benefactors.


There the matter rested until early 2024 when additional documentary evidence came to light in the annals of John de Pembridge, a Dominican friar writing in the 14th century [J. T. Gilbert (ed.), Chartularies of St Mary’s abbey, Dublin, 2 vols, Rolls Series (London, 1884), ii, p. 315.] This is not a contemporary 13th-century source, but Pembridge did have access to material not otherwise preserved and the focus of his interest was on the Anglo-Irish community. He states:


“Anno domini MCCXLI Walterus de Lacy dominus Midie decessit in Anglia relinquens post se duas filias, suas heredes, quarum primam maritavit dominus Theobaldus de Verdon secundum desponsavit Galfridus de Genevile.”


The critical information here is ‘decessit in Anglia’, [died in England] so not at Trim.


References in the Annals of Clonmacnoise also support the contention that Walter died in England.


These are an early 17th-century English translation of a lost Irish chronicle, whose compilers are unknown but which covered events in Ireland from prehistory to 1408. The original 1627 manuscript is lost, but there are several copies of it in both the Library of Trinity College Dublin and in the British Museum. They state that in 1239 Walter Delacie [sic] ‘repaired to the King of England’. According to the Annals his son seems to have taken his place in Ireland, stating that in 1240 ‘William Delacie lord of Meath, the onely sone  of Walter Delacie, and his wife died in one week, some say they were poysoned’, although this was more likely to have been Walter's half-brother William as there is no other record of Walter II de Lacy having an adult son of that name. Then in 1241 the Annals also record that ‘Walter Delacie, the bountifullest Englishman for horses,  cloaths, mony & goold, that ever came before his tyme into this kingdome, died in England of a wound’.

If we accept these sources that Walter de Lacy died in England, it follows that he was probably also buried in England and where better than Craswall Priory where the monks could continually pray for his soul? Walter had buried his son Gilbert at Llanthony Priory and so evidently favoured such arrangements. Furthermore he had not only founded but endowed Craswall Priory particularly generously; a Woolhope Club paper by Joe Hillaby gives the following account:


For the 'well being of the souls of myself, my wife Margaret and my son Gilbert', [Walter de Lacy] 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.


As Llanthony was already occupied by his son it seems reasonable to conclude that Craswall Priory in the lands of his birth, and very much his own creation, would have been Walter’s preferred choice for his interment and that the skeleton found there before the altar was indeed that of Walter II de Lacy.


Bob Steele

Ewyas Lacy Study Group, 2024



With thanks to Caroline Hillaby for forwarding the reference to John de Pembridge and Neil Kidd for the reference to the Annals of Clonmacnoise.

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