The Corbett One Name Study


The Anglo Norman Corbets
by
Barbara Coulton©

"Corbet and his sons Roger and Robert" were among the "brave and loyal" men brought to Shropshire by Roger de Montgomery, kinsman of the Conqueror, in 1070-71.1 Orderic Vitalis, from whom we have this testimony, wrote his History at the monastery of St-Évroul in Normandy, but he was born in Shrewsbury, son of a clerk of Earl Roger and a Saxon mother, in 1075; he would have some personal knowledge of these men of whom he wrote, for he spent his first ten years in Shropshire.2 Roger de Montgomery had already received lands in England, probably in December 1067: these estates were in Sussex and included Arundel.3 Rebellion, or resistance, in the marches of Wales by Edric the Wild and certain Welsh princes occasioned the appointment by King William of trustworthy men to guard this frontier and to make inroads into Wales. For the most part, "Roger's Sussex tenants simply did not follow him to Shropshire: he had to find a new set of tenants."4

These came chiefly from his Vicomté‚ of Hiémois in Normandy. From his caput at Exmes Roger de Montgomery had long assisted Duke William on that vulnerable frontier with Maine. Marriage c. 1050 to Mabel, heiress of the powerful and ruthless family of Bellême, with castles at strategic points such as Alençon in the district of Sées, made Roger even more valuable as a marcher lord in the duchy.5 He was to perform the same role in the middle march of Wales, and brought men used to such service. Picot de Sai was from Argentan; William Pantolf from Noron near Falaise: both in the Hi‚mois, from which region also came Helgot, and Gerard of Tournai-sur-Dive, and Renaud of Bailleul-en-Gouffern, near Exmes, who succeeded Warin as sheriff in Shropshire.6

According to an authority not usually cited, Corbet was "seigneur en partie de Boitron près Essai," in the same area, the Pays d'Auge.7 Neighbours in Normandy, he and the others were now to be neighbours in Shropshire. There was already a garrison at Shrewsbury, the town which gave Roger de Montgomery the title of his earldom; there he would have made a disposition of the new lands to which he and his men were strangers. "It was at Shrewsbury, the target of an attack by Edric the Wild in 1069, that Roger of Montgomery established himself in the 1070's and set about to enforce Norman authority in the area. He rearranged the existing fragmented pattern of Anglo-Saxon estates in western Shropshire into compact tenurial blocks which could thereby serve as coherent military units and granted them to personal followers."8
Earl Roger would have needed good intelligence about the situation on the border. At that time Bleddwyn ap Cynfyn was prince of Powys (he died in 1075). For the geography of the area it is best to study the map. From the town of Shrewsbury, situated on a hill in a bend of the river, the Severn could be followed up stream to the west, beyond the Breidden hills, then southwards to Trallwng (Welshpool). Crossing its course is Offa's Dyke, beyond the Long Mountain. The Roman road went west of Shrewsbury by way of Yockleton and Westbury to Long Mountain, following the ridge southwest towards the ford at Rhyd Whiman: near here the earl was to build his own castle, at Hen Domen.9 Further south is the valley of Rea Brook, with yet more hills south of that. In this hill country, commanding routes to and from Wales, Corbet was allotted lands. North of the Severn, in flatter land, Warin or Renaud built a new fortress, L'Oeuvre, at Oswestry. South of the Corbet manors, in the Clun and Onnys valleys, Picot de Sai was established. By the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 the Corbet estates were divided between Roger, the greater share, and his brother Robert. Their place in the list of the earl's tenants, immediately after the sheriff, "corresponds to the extent of their combined estate and their responsible position on an exposed part of the frontier towards Wales."10

Roger fitz Corbet's largest manor was Worthen, north of Rea Brook: its 14½ hides supported men-at-arms as well as villagers. His other twenty-four manors included Yockleton, Westbury and Wattlesborough to the north and Pontesbury to the east of Worthen; further east lay his brother's chief manor of Longden.11 The site which later became the caput of the Corbet barony is not mentioned in early records, but it will be as well to review at this point what has been written of Cause - the first known reference to which occurs some fifty years after the Domesday Survey. It has already been pointed out that Corbet was probably associated with the Pays d'Auge. Later documents testify to the presence of the family in that area: holding land at Crocy in Calvados; donating land to the abbey of St-Martin and Ste Barbara at Ste-Barbe-en-Auge.12 Most accounts of the family follow R.W.Eyton in locating the family in another part of Normandy, the Pays de Caux. Eyton asserts this as a fact, without citing original sources. He was following and idea of J.B.Blakeway, but Blakeway was by no means so definite: "what seems nearly certain is, that the family settled in the Pais de Caux." He gives no references for this supposition. The source he uses for an early Corbet lineage, the Histoire du Cambray et du Cambresis par Jean le Carpentier, Leyden 1664, deals with another branch of the family, and there is no reference to the Pays de Caux.13 What seems to be at work is a wish to derive the place-name Caus/Cause from Caux, without any good evidence.

The original site was not the present ruinous stone castle but another, identified as Hawcock's Mount: "it probably lay within one of the 13 unnamed berewicks of the Domesday manor of Worthen."14 It might be better to think of Roger fitz Corbet as baron or lord of Worthen, which supported four of his militis; Alretune was also important, supporting five milities - its is now identified as Trewern in Montgomeryshire.15 Roger's son, and probable heir, William was called William of Wattlesborough in a lineage recorded in a sixteenth century court book of Moreton Corbet.16

Roger and Robert were said by Le Carpentier to be the second and fourth sons of Corbet. (Blakeway questions the naming of the father as Hugh, c. 1040 in Normandy, and the use of Corbet as a surname at so early a date. Surviving documents refer to Corbet and to Roger and Robert as sons of Corbet.) They must have been young men when they were brought to Shropshire to serve Earl Roger; they were still alive fifty years later. We do not know whom they married, nor when, nor the dates of birth of their children. This is not surprising for most of the evidence comes from witness-lists to charters. We can with safety assume that they,, especially Roger, were leading followers of the earl. Roger was one of the witnesses to the charter to the earl's church of Quatford on 22 July 1086, when the bishops of Worcester, Hereford and Chester were also present.17 "[Earl] Roger founded a new borough on a well-chosen site at Quatford, where he may have sought to set up a new market."18

A more important ecclesiastical foundation was the abbey at Shrewsbury, with Benedictine monks from the Norman abbey of Sées. Although the 'foundation charter' is judged to be spurious, its substance is correct and "no objection can be raised to any of the witnesses."19 Among these were the four sons of the earl by his first wife; Richard de Belmeis, Reinald de Baillol, 'Roger Chorbet' and 'Robert Chorbet': the Corbets are the last two names in a list of nine.

While the Corbets, like Picot de Sai and William Pantolf, were leading tenants of Earl Roger, Richard de Belmeis and Rainald de Baillol were among his officers and clerks. Richard de Belmeis was from Beaumais-sur-Dive in the Hi‚mois, an able man who later became a royal servant and bishop of London. Rainald, the sheriff of Shropshire, had more estates than the Corbets and Picot combined. He may have had a deputy, Fulk, who had manors at Withington and Little Withyford. The earl's steward may have been Ralf de Mortimer of Cleobury, holder of nearly twenty manors and related to William of Warenne, another of the earl's tenants in Shropshire.20 These men formed the society of which the Corbets were part, perhaps marrying into such families. The grant of land at Impney in Worcestershire to Worcester Cathedral by Roger Corbet and Hugh de Sai and his wife Margaret may indicate some relationship.21
We lack details of even Earl Roger's journeys between Shropshire, Sussex and Normandy, or of the early forays into Wales, so we cannot trace the movements of Roger and Robert fitz Corbet. As followers of the earl, they were probably involved in the incipient rebellion which followed the death of William I in Normandy on 9 September 1087. The king's eldest son, Robert, "was in revolt and keeping company with his father's chief enemy King Philip ... But the king's other surviving sons were there". It was William whom the dying king dispatched to England; he gave his other son Henry a substantial sum of money.22

A conspiracy ensued, to put Duke Robert on the English throne instead of William Rufus. "Easter was clearly a critical point, and it is likely that the conspirators failed to attend the king's solemn court. They had fortified and provisioned their castles and sent to Robert for aid. The duke had dispatched Eustace III, count of Boulogne, and three sons of Earl Roger of Montgomery - Roger of Bellême, and two of the younger sons." Robert's younger brothers were Hugh, Roger and Arnulf - Arnulf, with a reputation as a soldier, brought a force of knights, including Flemings.23 Despite this involvement the Montgomery family survived in England; the younger son Roger the Poitevin prospered under the new king, gaining control of what was later Lancashire; Arnulf became established in Pembrokeshire.24 Hugh succeeded as earl on his father's death in July 1094. Earl Roger was buried in Shrewsbury Abbey, on which occasion Roger fitz Corbet's grant of the church of Wentnor and the tithes of Yockleton was made.25

Earl Hugh's charter of liberties (cartulary no.4) was witnessed by Roger 'Corbeth' and his brother Robert. Robert of Bellême was restored to favour in Normandy where he had inherited his mother's lands, and her cruel nature. She had met a fit end when some of the young knights she had dispossessed surprised her at her castle of Bures-sur-Dive, fresh from her bath, and beheaded her. That occured early one December, probably in 1076.26 By his second wife, Adelais de Puiset, Earl Roger had a son name Everard. According to one authority, "Earl Roger and his vassals had done little more than restore and round off the boundaries of Shropshire, crossing Offa's dyke to found the new Montgomery, and advancing a little way beyond the Severn. He or his men had, however, raided West Wales in 1073 and 1074 ...". William Rufus was more active and established new men in south Wales. Roger of Montgomery occupied Ceredigion in 1093 and went south into Dyfed, where his son Arnulf was soon regarded as an earl. William Rufus was at Gloucester for much of that year though he did not take part in person in the wars in south and central Wales.27

Exactly four years after Earl Roger's death Earl Hugh was killed during a raid with Earl Hugh of Chester into north Wales. "Meanwhile, one of the foreign Norwegians, who saw the earl galloping up, was prompted by the devil to send a missile whistling through the air which, I grieve to tell, struck the famous earl. He fell like a stone and breathed his last in the waves of the tossing sea."28 The body was retrieved and buried in Shrewsbury Abbey. Although Arnulf may have been intended to succeed his brother in England, Robert of Bellˆme bought the earldom from Rufus. "When he had been made earl he harried the Welsh brutally for four years. He moved the fortified town of Quatford, and built a strong castle at Bridgnorth on the river Severn".29 In August 1100 Rufus died, memorably, in the New Forest, his brother Henry being of the hunting party. Henry immediately rode to Winchester to secure the treasury and the throne. Once his elder brother Duke Robert returned from the crusade, in September (so Rufus's end was well-timed), there would be more conspiracies in England and Wales. Henry was thirty-two when he took the throne: not enough is known of his life before then but he spent some adventurous years, in England and in Normandy, where he bought the Avranchin and the Côtentin from his brother Duke Robert.30

It is because of Henry I's personal propensities that we know something of two Corbet women who occur in the records of this period. Of his numerous mistresses Sibyl Corbet, elder daughter of Robert fitz Corbet of Longden, must have been a favourite since she bore four, possibly five, of Henry's illegitimate children.31 She had a younger sister Alice. Where, when and how the liaison began between Henry and Sibyl is a mystery. He had already had children by various mistresses: among the oldest must have been Juliane, who married Eustace de Pacy lord of Breteuil in 1103, and rebelled against her father; and Robert, born of an unknown woman of Caen, who was created earl of Gloucester by his father in 1122.32 The known children by Sibyl Corbet were Rainaud de Dunstanville, his brother William and sisters Gundred and Rohese; it is also possible, but not certain, that Sibyl was the mother of the king's illegitimate daughter Sibyl who was married to Alexander after he became king of the Scots in 1107.33

The Corbet allegiance to the Montgomery family involved them once again in rebellion early in Henry's reign, again in support of Duke Robert of Normandy. Henry did not trust Robert of Bellême, earl of Shrewsbury, and had spies reporting on him for a year, during which time the earl asked the Welsh for help and strengthened his castles. In 1102 the king summoned Earl Robert to court to answer charges against him, but he fled to his castles, which the king besieged. Arundel fell first, and Blyth; then the king led his troops "into the province of Mercia, where he besieged Bridgnorth for three weeks", as Orderic recounts. "Robert himself had withdrawn to Shrewsbury and put Bridgnorth castle in the charge of Roger, son of Corbet, Robert of Neuville, and Ulger the huntsman, with eighty mercenary knights under their command."34

The episode is also recorded in Welsh chronicles which tell how the king encamped at a distance from Bridgnorth and took counsel. "And the main counsel he received was to send messengers to the Britons and in particular to Iorwerth ap Bleddyn, and to invite him and his host into his presence and to promise him more than he would obtain from the earl."35 Bribery was effective. William Pantolf, who had been disinherited by the earl, acted a mediator with the castellans at Bridgnorth, and they mad a timely surrender. The earl's lands were forfeit and he was allowed to go into exile.

Robert fitz Corbet is a shadowy figure, witnessing some charters and receiving the town of Alcester in Warwickshire for his service to the king.36 His gift of the vill of 'Loketon' to Shrewsbury Abbey presents a problem, pointed out by Eyton: neither Loughton in Clee nor Loton near Alberbury was held by Robert; Loton was held by his brother Roger in 1086. The gift is dated to the period 1108-1121.37 He followed his brother in attesting King Henry's charter confirming gifts to Shrewsbury Abbey, possibly in January 1121: "ego Rogerius filius corbet sunscripsi. Ego Robertus frater eiusdem subscripsi." Their names are followed by those of Fulk, under-sheriff, Herbert son of Helgot, Baldwin de Bollers, Ulger venator and Ralph of Condover, concluding the list.38 It is the last record of the sons of Corbet, fifty years after their first coming to Shropshire.

Seven years earlier in 1114 another witness-list indicates the presence of Roger fitz Corbet and his son Robert, with King Henry at Castle Holgate. 39The document is a late notitia of a precept issued by the king to Richard bishop of London - Richard of Belmeis, once in the household of Roger of Montgomery, now administering justice in Shropshire for the king. Other witnesses were Alan fitz Flaad, a Breton, was given estates in Shropshire after the fall of Robert of Bellême; he was given the honour of Warin, former sheriff, after the death of Warins's son Hugh, and may have acted as sheriff until his death in or before 1121.40 This expedition is noted in the Welsh chronicles: "King Henry moved his host towards Gwynedd and Powys ... [he] arranged three hosts: one, all the south of England and Cornwall, with earl Gilbert [Gilbert the knight, sheriff of Huntingdon, Cambridge and Surrey], to go to south Wales; another with Alexander, the son of Maelcohuin, and the son of Hugh, earl of Chester, and with them all in Scotland; the third with the king himself. The king came with the two hosts to the place called Murcastell [possibly Tomen-y-Mur, Merioneth]." In his Itinerary of Henry I, Farrer places these events in May and June.41

The Scottish connection should be briefly explained. The three younger sons of Malcolm Canmore and the saintly Queen Margaret had the support of William II and of Henry, who married their sister Edith, renamed Maud, within months of his accession - her descent from Anglo-Saxon kings no doubt reinforced Henry's claim to the throne. Alexander had succeeded his brother Edgar in 1107; the youngest brother David had been brought up at the English court. He was supported by the king his brother-in-law when Alexander was reluctant to ceded the estates in southern Scotland which had been left to David by Edgar.42

At the end of 1113 or the beginning of 1114 David was given a wealthy wife: Maud of Senlis, daughter of Earl Waltheof and Countess Judith (niece of the Conqueror) and widow of Simon of Senlis, who through her had been earl of Northampton and Huntingdon. Her sons by Simon were under age and David was given earldom and the honour, with extensive estates to distribute to his followers.43 Like his patron, King Henry, David collected a retinue of younger sons and adventurers: between 1114 and 1124 (when David succeeded Alexander as king) a Robert Corbet was given land at Draughton or Drayton in Northamptonshire.44 According to one authority, "Corbet is traceable only as far as the Honour of Huntingdon".45

It is at least a possibility that Robert Corbet was from Shropshire, brought to the king's notice at Castle Holgate in 1114 when the king was recruiting extra men for his familia or military household. After the campaign he could have been taken on by Earl David. (There is even the faint possibility that David's sister-in-law Queen Sybil was Corbet's cousin.) Robert Corbet witnessed several charters of the earl, later king, David, along with other men who became notable at the Scottish court. Hugh de Morville, Robert Corbet, Walter Lindsey and others witnessed a grant to St Peter's abbey church at Westminster between 1 May 1118, when Queen Maud died, and 23 April 1124, when David became king. The same men, and Robert de Brus, were described as "procerum et militum meorum" in Davids charter to the church of Glasgow in 1123.46 The Corbet lands in Scotland were around Yetholm, by Cheviot. The identity of the sons of Roger fitz Corbet is problematic. Sanders, in his English Baronies, thought that Robert was the heir, but there is no evidence of this.47

Eyton suggests that William, whose name appears in connection with a gift to Shrewsbury Abbey, was the eldest son: the vill of Winsley was given with the consent of Roger's sons William and Evrard. He further suggested that William died "unmarried or childless" because of a later gift by his brothers Evrard and Simon - but this is slight basis for such an assumption, perhaps reading back into earlier times the stricter inheritance rules that came to be established.48 Roger's sons Everard and Simon made a gift to Shrewsbury Abbey of a ferndeel of land in Wentnor, mentioned in a confirmation charter of 1155. The editor of the Shrewsbury Cartulary assigns the gift to the years after 1139, since it is not in Stephen's charter of that date. Everard and Simon also gave land to Haughmond Abbey, Everard with the consent of Simon.49 We do not know of any daughters of Roger: if there were any they doubtless led more conventional lives than their cousin Sibyl, being married to their father's friends and neighbours, or entering a convent.

By the 1130's we have mention of the castle of Cause, by Orderic. Writing of the year 1134, when there were many calamities on earth, the Welsh, who had been "pitilessly slaughtered", rebelled against King Henry. "They burned the castle of Pain fitz John, which is called Cause, and slaughtered without mercy all the persons of both sexes whom they found inside."50 Pain, an important royal servant in the west midlands and the marches, seems to have succeeded Richard of Belmeis as justiciar in Shropshire, possibly as early as 1121. In 1126 the county was granted to Henry's second wife, Queen Adelisa, which probably meant that Pain was free to run Shropshire as he liked. The Cause at this time was probably the motte-and-bailey timber castle standing on a spur of the Long Mountain with prospects to the east and south over the Rea Valley and west into Wales. Pain was killed by the Welsh on 10 July 1137.51 The Corbet lord who succeeded Roger after 1121, possibly William of Wattlesborough, may have died, leaving his heir Roger under age and so unable to command the stronghold of Cause. By the time of Pain's death anarchy had succeeded the order of Henry I, who died in Normandy in December 1135. His only legitimate son, William, having drowned in the White Ship in November 1120, he had caused his lords to swear allegiance to his daughter Matilda, widowed Empress, who was next married to Geoffrey of Anjou. But is was Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois, who had been brought up at the English court and given lands and power, who took the throne. Most of the Barons supported him during 1136-7. Among those who did not was Alan fitz Flaad's son and heir William, who had succeeded Pain as sheriff of Shropshire. In the summer of 1138 he held Shrewsbury Castle against Stephen, who besieged it. When it fell the king had FitzAlan's kinsman Arnulf de Hesdin and ninety-three other defenders hanged, but William FitzAlan escaped. Three years later we find him with his younger brother Walter at Empress Matilda's court.52

The empress had three sons by Geoffrey of Anjou, the youngest, William, being born at Argentan on 22 July 1136. At that time her claim to the English throne seemed weak, but by 1138 she had the support of her half-brother Robert earl of Gloucester who formally renounced his fealty to Stephen. He attracted support in Normandy, as did the empress's other half-brother Rainald de Dunstanville, son of Sibyl Corbet: he witnessed a charter of Matilda's at Argentan, 1138-9, when military preparations were under way.53 One who joined Rainald was Baldwin de Redvers. The empress's uncle, King David, had also opposed Stephen, partly for his own purposes. Matilda returned to England in September 1139.

By 1141 we find King David, Earl Robert, Rainald (whom she created earl of Cornwall), Baldwin (now earl of Devon) and others witnessing charters of the empress. William and Walter FitzAlan were among her supporters; they were given writs to administer Shropshire, but the county was not in the control of the empress. Another familiar name is Robert Corbet: he witnessed two of Matilda's charters and also two of Robert earl of Gloucester, one the important treaty of friendship he made with Miles earl of Hereford.54

The Robert Corbet who was one of King David's lords is said to have disappeared from the Scottish records about 1138. It is likely that he was one of David's followers who attended Matilda, apparently staying with her. If he was the same Robert Corbet who was with her father the king in 1114, the son of Roger fitz Corbet, he would have reason to support the empress, being a near kinsman of Earl Rainald, his cousin's son. He may have had other kinsmen among the Shropshire supporters of the empress: there was a prominent group of men from the shire later to be found in Scotland in the company of Walter FitzAlan who became the steward of the Scottish court, and founder of the house of Stewart.55

Prominent at Matilda's 'court' were several connections of the Corbet family through Sibyl and her sister Alice. Sibyl had married Herbert fitz Herbert, a son of the chamberlain of Henry I; Alice married a kinsman of Brien fitz Count, of Wallingford, one of the empress's main supporters: he was William Boterel of Botreaux.56 Sibyl's son Herbert fitzHerbert married Lucy, daughter of Miles earl of Hereford.57 The charter which transferred the castle and honour of Abergavenny to Earl Miles, from Brien fitz Count, was witnessed at Oxford by Earl Rainald and Robert Corbet, before December 1142 when Matilda made her celebrated escape in the snow.

The transfer of Abergavenny to the earldom of Hereford made geographical sense since Wallingford was at the eastern extremity of Matilda's area of influence. It was held against the king throughout the years of conflict, but the empress made her base for the next five years at Devizes, the west country being controlled by her supporters. The most important earldom was that of her brother Robert who had castles at Gloucester, Bristol and Cardiff, where a mint was set up.58 (Robert Corbet may have entered the service of the earl of Gloucester.) Earl Rainald held Cornwall, and Earl Baldwin, Devon. Rainald also had connections with Wiltshire: he was known a 'de Dunstanville', which suggests a link with the family of Castle Combe and Malmesbury. The brothers Robert and Alan de Dunstanville were witnesses with Earl Rainald to Matilda's charters to Shrewsbury and Haughmond abbeys.59

During this period Matilda's eldest son Henry, now aged nine, spent a year in England, mainly at his uncle's castle of Bristol, from November 1142 to the end of 1143.60 The empress, never popular, withdrew to Normandy in 1148 but her supporters' allegiance was transferred to her son. Earl Robert died in October 1147 and to some extent Henry's other uncle, Earl Rainald, took his place. In 1149 Henry was knighted by his mother's uncle King David at Carlisle. Stephen died in October 1154; the twenty-one year old Henry was crowned at Westminster on 19 December.61.

From the start of the reign of Henry II we find Earl Rainald prominent at court: at Oxford, Northampton, Peterborough, Lincoln, York and Nottingham early in 1155, then at the great council at Easter.62 In 1155 there was again trouble in Shropshire, but this time a Corbet was on the king's side. Immediately after the council of Wallingford in April, the king went to suppress the rebellion of Hugh Mortimer, lord of Cleobury and Wigmore, besieging those castles and the royal castle of Bridgnorth which Mortimer held. This occupied most of the summer, when the king issued several charters; a council was held at Bridgnorth on 7 July to witness Mortimer's submission. Earl Rainald was present, as was Walter FitzAlan, restored as sheriff, both of whom witnessed charters to Shrewsbury Abbey. Another witness was Roger Corbet, presumably the lord of Caus and the other manors of his family in Shropshire and the Welsh march. The Longden manors may have been held by Earl Rainald at this time.63

Four years later, In October 1158, at Limoges, the king gave his fifteen-year-old cousin, Sara, daughter of Rainald, in marriage to his late ward Ademar vicomte of Limoges. Her sister Hawise (or Denise) married the son of Earl Baldwin of Devon, Richard, who succeeded the earl in 1155.64 Their grandmother Sibyl Corbet was still alive in 1157 when she received income from a manor in Sussex.65 The earl lived until July 1175; his brother William was still living in May 1177 when he was granted, with his half-brother Herbert fitzHerbert and their nephew Joel de Pomerai, Limerick excluding the town.66

We do not know when or where Sibyl and her sister Alice died, but there is an odd footnote to their history in an old account of Asthall church in Oxfordshire. "On the north side of the church ... is the effigy of a female figure recumbent, on a stone coffin, situated within an elegantly Gothic arch. It is said to contain the remains of Alice Corbett, concubine to King Henry I., the daughter of Sir Robert Corbett of Warwickshire."67 So a memory lingered, though confused.

Events in Shropshire can be followed again during the reign of Henry II: this entail trespassing beyond the Anglo-Norman era into the Angevin age, but may help to sort out the Corbet lineage. After Henry's abortive Welsh campaign of July 1165 the marcher castles were strongly fortified. The Pipe Rolls for that year show that Cause was garrisoned by the crown: a payment of £14. 11. 8d was allowed to the servientibus of Chaus.68 Possibly Roger Corbet had died, leaving his nephew Robert, his heir, a minor. That Roger had no surviving son is made clear from a later grant of the Stiperstones to Robert Corbet, as his paternal uncle had held it.69

Early in 1166 the barons made their sealed returns or cartae listing old and new enfeoffments and names of knights and tenants. So we learn that a William Corbet held a knight's fee at Dawley in Middlesex, of the honour of Wallingford. The manor had belonged to Roger de Montgomery in 1086; it may have been granted to Roger fitzCorbet.70 (Perhaps William was a younger son of William of Wattlesborough.) Unfortunately no returns were made for Shropshire so there is no information about the Corbet barony. In 1179-80 Robert Corbet held the barony by service of five knights, one of whom was Richard of Wattlesborough.71 So, a century after Corbet and his sons came to Shropshire, at least two lines of the family were well established in the shire.72
Notes:
1. The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis ed. Marjorie Chibnall, Oxford 1969-80, ii,p.263
2. Marjorie Chibnall, The World of Orderic Vitalis, Oxford 1984 p.3
3. J.F.A. Mason, Roger de Montgomery and his Sons, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th
series, vol. 13. 1963, pp. 1-28
4. ibid. p.9
5. G.H. White, The First House of Bellˆme, T.R.H.S. 4th series, vol. 22, 1940, pp. 67-99
6. I.J. Sanders, English Baronies, Oxford 1960, pp. 94, 112-3; Victoria County History of Shropshire ii,
pp. 296-298
7. Henry Rainault Vicomte de Motey, Origines de la Normandie et du Duche‚ d'Alencon, Paris, 1920
8. R.R. Davies, The Age of Conquest 1063-1415, Oxford 1991, p.30
9. Mason, op. cit., p.13
10. VCH Salop ii, p.38
11. Domesday Book: Shropshire, Chichester 1986: Roger fitz Corbet held 25 manors, his brother Robert 15.
12. Calendar of Documents Preserved in France i, ed. J.H. Round, 1899, pp.209-210; Monasticaon Anglicanum vi part 2, William Dugdale
13. J.B. Blakeway, The Sheriffs of Shropshire, Shrewsbury 1831, p.38. R.W. Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire, 1854, vii, p.6, makes suggestion into a fact: "I am entitled, I think, to assume that, soon after Domesday, Roger fitz Corbet built a Castle at Alretune, and called it Caux. This was associating the place with recollections of his won childhood ... for he himself, or his father, came to Shropshire from Pays de Caux in Normandy." He gives no evidence for these assumptions.
14. VCH Salop viii, p.303
15. ibid.
16. Shropshire Record Office, Acton Reynald Collection: 322 Box 2
17. Eyton, Shropshire i, pp. 109-111
18. Mason. op.cit. p.11
19. The Cartulary of Shrewsbury Abbey, ed. Una Rees, Aberystwyth 1975, vol. i, p.7
20. J.F.A. Mason, The Officers and Clerks of the Norman Earls of Shropshire, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society lvi, 1957-60, pp. 244-257; for Richard de Belmeis see D.N.B.and Eyton, ii, 193-201
21. Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066-1154 III Regesta Stephani ac Mathildis... ed. H.A. Cronne and
R.C.H. Davis, Oxford 1968; no. 964 - confirmation c. 1138 of earlier grants.
22: David C Douglas, William the Conqueror, London 1964, pp.359-361
23: Frank Barlow, William Rufus, London 1983, p.77
24: Mason, Roger de Montgomery and his Sons, p.16
25: Rees, Cartulary, p.39
26: White, op.cit.
27: Barlow, op.cit. pp.320-323
28: Ecclec. Hist. Orderic Vitalis v, p.225
29: Ibid.
30: D.N.B. vol. xxv
31: Complete Peerage XI, Appendix D
32: C.P. V p.683: the suggestion that he was the son of Sibyl Corbet is probably correct.
33: A.C. Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters, Glasgow 1905:charter XXXVI to Scone Priory, Alexander I, c. 1120, witnessed by Queen Sibyl and her brother William; she died 12 June 1122 on an island in Loch Tay to which Alexander granted charter XLVII, to canons of Scone.
34: Eccles. Hist. Orderic Vitalis vi, p.25
35: Brut Y Tywysogyon (Red Book of Hergest) ed. Thomas Jones, Cardiff 1955, pp.43-47
36: VCH Warwickshire iii, p.15
37: Eyton, Shropshire v11, p.107
38: Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum II Regesta Henrici Primi 1100-1135 ed. Charles Johnson and H.A. Cronne, Oxford 1956; no. 1245. Printed in Cartulary, Rees, no. 35.
39: RRAN II, no. 1051
40: M. Chibnall, Anglo-Norman England 1066-1166, Oxford 1986, p.80; VCH Salop iii, pp.10-11
41: Breuhinedd y Saesson ed. Thomas Jones, Cardiff 1971, pp.121-2; W Farrer, An Outline Itinerary of Henry I, The English Historical Review, XXXIV 1919, p.371. For Gilbert see Judith A. Green, The Government of England under Henry I, Cambridge 1986, pp.197-9.
42 G.W.S. Barrow, Kingship and Unity: Scotland 1000-1306, London 1981, p.32
43 Complete Peerage VI, pp.640 et seq.
44 VCH Northamptonshire i, p. 385; W Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees ii, London 1924, p.386.
45 G.W.S.Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots, London 1973, p.324.
46 The Acts of Mƒcon IV et. G.W.S.Barrow, Edinburgh 1960, p.134; Early Scottish Charters, Lawrie, pp.41-2.
47 Sanders, English Baronies, p.29.
48 Eyton, Shropshire vii, p. 10.
49 Rees, Cartulary, no. 36; note on gift, p.44.
50 Eccles. Hist. Orderic Vitalis vi, p.443. Orderic spells the place 'Caus'.
51 VCH Salop iii, pp. 10-11; W.E. Wightman, The Lacy Family in England and Normandy 1066-1194, Oxford 1966, pp.177-8. For the position of Cause castle see VCH Salop viii, pp.308-9.
52 H Owen and J B Blakeway, A History of Shrewsbury, 1825, i, pp.78-9; RRAN III. pp. xxix-xxxii for the FitzAlans.
53 Marjorie Chibnall, The Empress Matilda, Oxford 1991, p.74.
54 RRAN III. Robert Corbet witnessed charters 394 and 498. Also, Earldom of Gloucester Charters ed. Robert B Patterson, Oxford 1973, charters 84 and 95.
55 Lawrie, op cit. pp. 277-8: "Robert Corbet either died or returned to England before the war with Stephen (A.D.1138). It is possible ... that he was the father of Walter Corbet, who in the reign of Malcolm IV and William I held Malcarveston [on the Tweed] and other lands in the south of Scotland." The Corbet lands were near the Cheviots. For the Shropshire men in Scotland, see Barrow, The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History, Oxford 1980, pp.65-66; and for Walter FitzAlan, pp. 338-9.
56 VCH Berkshire iv, p.61 for Herbert FitzHerbert and Sibyl; VCH Berks. iii, pp.523-4, for Wallingford; VCH Warks. iii, p.15, for Alice.
57 VCH Berks. iv, p.61.
58. Chibnall, The Empress Matilda, pp. 118-125.
59. RRAN III
60. Chiball, The Empress Matilda, pp. 144 et seq. for Robert, earl of Gloucester, DNB. vol. XLVIII.
61. W L Warren, Henry II, London 1973, pp.29-36
62. R W Eyton, Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II, London 1878, for movements of king and court, charters issued etc. For text of the charter of confirmation to Shrewsbury Abbey, see Rees, Cartulary no. 36.
63. Eyton, Shropshire, pp. 11 and 151,156.
64. Eyton, Itinerary, p.48 for Sara; Complete Peerage IV, pp.311-5 for Devon.
65. Eyton, Shropshire vii, p.145.
66. Eyton, Itinerary, p.214.
67. Joseph Skelton, Antiquities of Oxfordshire, Oxford 1823, p.2.
68. Eyton, Shropshire vii, pp.11-12.69. ibid.
70. VCH Middlesex iii, p.263.
71. Liber Rubens Scaccario ed. H Hall, 1896, Rolls Series: vol.ii,p.509.
72. There was also a Corbet of Tasley, a tenant of the barony of FitzAlan, who died before 1175, leaving a minor as an heir, named Roger: see Eyton, Shropshire i, p.85.


The Corbett Study Group is grateful to
Barbara Coulton, Frances Corbet & Steve Pickstock
for allowing us to publish their writings without charge.