An Account of the Origins
Bath / Bathe / de Bathe Families
This account has been updated based on information and opinions provided by Mr. Henry Summerson, of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and author of the "Crown Pleas of Devon Ryre, 1238" and by Dr. David Crooks, of the National Archives; Research, Knowledge and Academic Services Department and compiler of the works of the late C.A.F. Meekings, a noted authority on 13th C. justices. It should be noted that Mr. Summerson holds by his published surmise that Walter de Bathe, sheriff of Devon 1236-51, originated from the town of Bath, Somerset.Preface
The surmise that the English and Irish Bath / Bathe and de Bathe families had familial connections during the early medieval period was first made by Joseph Henry Bath of Dublin, in a "Gentleman’s Magazine" of 1835. In 1905, Edward Henry Bath of Alltyferin, expanded on this theory by claiming descent from the same family and compiled a manuscript based on this and other research conducted by himself and his Uncle, Charles Bath of Ffynone. It is to be understood by the reader that genealogic research was a fashionable, gentleman’s hobby during this period and that they were given to interpreting what few contemporary records were available in the most favourable light to themselves. Unfortunately, most of those records that may prove, or disprove their theory have been largely lost to current generations; the Exeter archives in the bombing of the Second World War and Dublin’s in the 1922 uprising. We are therefore left to make our own interpretations of what little is known, or generally understood, about the early medieval period and the family(ies) under study and with this in mind many of the known sources have been electronically transcribed and are available to interested private parties through this site.
The following account is not intended as a definitive, nor scholarly study. The suggestion that all the current Bath / Bathe and de Bathe families of England and Ireland have the same roots is very much open to interpretation and debate. Various theories are given by surname authorities, but the essence of the argument lies in whether multiple, early medieval families adopted it as a surname, or only one. Herein is outlined the historical background related to the lives of the known personages bearing this name, as well as the theories regarding its origin. In all matters related with this work, we stand to be corrected.
In the year 1066, William, Duke of Normandy brought an army to England, composed of hired mercenaries and feudal levies, to assert his claim to the crown. There followed the battle on the hill of Semlac, thereafter called the battle of Hastings, which culminated in William’s archers breaking the Anglo-Saxon shield wall and in the process killing their chosen king, Harald. Most of the Anglo-Saxon nobility and large landholders were killed, or put to flight. Unfortunately, at that time family names were just coming into vogue with the Normans and very few of William’s men had one, thereby rendering the tracing of any ancestors to this date a virtually impossible task, let alone determining upon which side they may have fought.
Harald had formerly sworn fealty to William as his liege lord. He’d done so upon a chest that William had secretly filled with holy relics gathered from the religious houses in the area. In this highly superstitious time, the breaking of such an oath would bring dire consequences and William believed that Harald would not honour his pledge without it being sworn in such a manner. Nevertheless, Harold betrayed William when he took the crown of England, later claiming that the oath had been given under duress.
It was this oath that William now used as a pretext to declare that the Anglo-Saxon nobility and gentry, who had supported Harald, were in fact rebels and traitors and as such all their lands, titles and possessions were forfeit to the crown. Thus William could fulfill his promises of land to the Norman barons who had followed him to Hastings and at the same time control the wealth and power of an openly hostile population. There followed a long period of unrest and desolation in many parts of England. William besieged and forced the surrender of the rebellious town of Exeter in Devon. A single chronicler recorded that Anglo-Saxon forces participated. Much of the northern counties were laid waste such that many generations later chroniclers still reported the presence of ruins and unpopulated areas. When it was over the Normans had displaced virtually all the Anglo-Saxon’s positions in government, church and property and held those positions to a diminishing degree for many generations thereafter.
Having paid off his mercenaries and sent them home William was in dire need of loyal manpower to hold his newly conquered kingdom. Land, the only source of wealth, was plummeting in value due to lack of management by its new owners as well as crushing taxation. To correct the former and provide new sources for the latter William and his successor encouraged the migration of any Norman who could cross the channel and possess it. A militaristic society, they raised their enormous donjons and battlements, at first in wood, to overawe and suppress the local inhabitants. The killing of an Anglo-Saxon was not considered a crime, nor was the raping of their women, but the murder of a Norman brought swift retribution and ruinous fines upon the shire in which it occurred.
In order to facilitate the efficient gathering of taxes and ensure that no source was overlooked William, in 1086, commanded that a census be taken of all property and its proprietors throughout England. For the next several years the appointed commissioners held inquiries in the areas under their jurisdiction and recorded in minute detail the information for which the king sought. The "Domesday Books", so called because to the people they seemed like something that might be produced on judgment day, offer few clues to the origin of the surname of the medieval family of de Bathe / Bathonia, however they do allow scholars to estimate the English population at the time as being around 1.25 million.
It is said that during the 12th century this family held Bathe House and the manor of Sheepwash (Sepewasse), in Devonshire and that it was from the former property that they took their name. However, no properties with these names have been found in the available copies of the "Domesday Books". The manor of North Tawton, in which the lands of Bathe were located, was recorded as being held by the King’s Thanes who were anciently the king’s drinking and hunting companions, but by this period had evolved into regional administrators. They were probably sent there to construct the first Norman keep in the area and to control the locals. They would have maintained several local farms as a source of food and income, but none by the name of Bathe were recorded.
Studies conducted by Ewen L’Estrange on inherited surnames taken from the Devon subsidy (tax) rolls of later periods, indicate that during the 12th century only some six percent of those recorded could claim a surname, that being a second name passed on to offspring and from them to their male descendants as opposed to a name assigned or adopted for the term of an individual’s life and connected only with them. By 1332 this percentage had risen to approximately sixty percent. Of these, some sixty percent had taken their name from what L’Estrange termed "localities": a village of former residence, a hill, a stream, a manor etc. The other sources of surnames were occupations, characteristic features, mother’s and father’s first names etc.. L’Estrange also notes a higher incidence in Devon, of what he considered to be Norman surnames than in most of the other counties of England, with Kent having the highest percentage. This may be due to the aforementioned siege of Exeter and the apportioning of available lands amongst the victors.
The "Domesday Books" record that the current town of Bath, Somerset was then held by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, a relative of the King. The name of this ecclesiastical centre was variously recorded, in French as Bathe and in Latin as Bathonia. As a former resident, or having been in service to one of the landholders in this area and then being granted land in Devon, the de Bathe / Bathonia family progenitor may have adopted his name from this locality and given it to his family seat.
Adversely, on what was the original site of the Bathe house/lands, there is a large circular pit or depression in the ground described as being deep enough for a man on horseback to be swallowed up in. During wet periods, it occasionally fills with water and when this occurs has been since ancient times ascribed as the foretelling of the death of some notable person. To the local inhabitants this pit or pool may have resembled a bath. They were not as unfamiliar to such things as much latter generations were and so the name may also have been given to the lands and hence to the family which held it at this time. However, during the 12th century the entire county of Devon was "afforested". All land, not already under cultivation, was reserved for the king’s hunting and riding pleasure. Had Bathe House not already existed at this point, it could only have been settled after 1204 when king John rescinded the law in exchange for a large cash payment. The later date would have likely excluded the house/manor as the source of the family name. However, the immediate area where Bathe House/Farm is located was indeed settled and cultivated during the pre-Norman era and therefore could very well have existed in time to give its name to the family in the early to mid 12th century. On the grounds lies a Roman fort named Nemetostatio and a Roman road running past its gate and over a ford of the nearby River Taw. Of strategic importance to the Romans it was also of interest to the Normans. The road would have been used in the medieval period.
A salient factor when considering surnames can be found in the Catholic Church’s reforms carried out in the 12th century. Marriages within seven degrees of consanguinity were banned. You could not marry your cousin, your cousin’s cousin and so forth. The offspring of such a marriage could be declared bastards and under Norman law bastards held no rights of inheritance. This would have had little effect on the majority of the population who held no land and had little to pass on to their heirs. Nor would it have impacted the higher nobility, who had the means and contacts to obtain dispensations from the church. However, it would have been of grave concern to the landed gentry class.
Other than for the very high nobility, marriages and births were not recorded. A marriage, or baptism was conducted on the step of the local church with only those present bearing witness. A family held surname was the only, easy way to distinguish the other members of your extended family. Therefore the strictures on marriage may have given impetus to the adoption of surnames. To be of any practical value in this regard the name had to be unique and it is therefore unlikely that the name of a larger established town would have been chosen. If one did, so could many others and the result would have been too confusing. There may very well have been an unwritten rule that you did not do so, perhaps it may have been seen as being too presumptuous, as the current low incidence of surnames such as London, Bath, Bristol, Exeter etc., might suggest. On the other hand, a name of a manor or lands held by a family was a different matter. This is not to say that latter generations may not have picked up these names, but again the numbers do not suggest that many families did so. (see 1901 census)
William I was succeeded by his son William "Rufus" (1087 – 1100), so-called for the way his face would colour when angry. The first and only successful crusade began in 1096. Henry I (1100 – 1135) inherited the crown from his murdered brother and did a better job, even giving his barons the precursor of the Magna Charta. Henry I died without a male heir, which plunged England into a chaotic period of civil war between the rival claimants for the crown, Stephen and Henry’s daughter Matilda, which continued until Stephen’s death in 1154. The west of England was for the most part supportive of Matilda and would have been content when her son succeeded Stephen, as Henry II (1154 – 1189).
Land in this early medieval period was held feudally, the possessor owing military service to his immediate liege lord, who in turn owed service to his lord and ultimately to the king. Such land was called a "Knight’s Fee". Failure to render the service could result in the person’s dispossession. It was the Norman custom that all property be kept intact and passed on, in its entirety, to the eldest male heir. Younger sons were not legally entitled to a share and were expected to make their own way in the world. Their options were rather limited, a fortuitous marriage, the military, the church and a nascent, secular civil service, which will be discussed further on.
Between 1169 and 1172 took place the Norman invasion of Ireland. The chronicler, Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), recorded this event. Invited by Henry Dermod, King of Leinster to help him reclaim his throne and strongly acquisitive in their own right, the Normans crossed the Irish Sea and crushed the ill equipped armies sent against them. During the course of the conquest they stormed and sacked Dublin and divided up much of southeast Ireland amongst themselves. This area later became known as the "Pale".
The Norman leader was Richard de Clare, Lord of Striguil and heir to the Earldom of Pembroke, also known as "Strongbow"; for his prowess with that weapon. He is described as being very powerful, but extremely effeminate looking. It is said that he could have passed for a beautiful woman. Dermot had originally approached Henry II who, too busy with his own problems in Normandy and unable to take on more, fobbed him off with Strongbow. Being hounded by his creditors Strongbow was eager for the chance. He based himself in Bristol and after many delays finally crossed to Ireland with a small army, recruited mostly from the Welsh marches, but which would have comprised many younger sons of the Anglo-Norman landed gentry.
Hugo de Bathe/ Bathonia, said to have been " a companion in arms to Strongbow", was granted lands in Dublin and Meath. However, no contemporary record of this individual has yet been found. The claim was made by Joseph Henry Bath of Dublin a descendant of the Baths of Athcarne, in 1835. In his submission to the "Gentleman’s Magazine" he indicated that he had traced his lineage back to this Hugo, but did not include his evidence as it would likely bore the readers. He also stated that this Hugo had a connection with the English family of the same name. His papers and other documentation have not yet turned up. The same claim can be found in various Burke’s editions on other members of this family, but may all come from the same source. Beryl Moore in a manuscript on the history of Athcarne written in the 1960s, stated that the original 1172 deed to Hugo de Bathe still exists. However, she did not give its whereabouts.
Alarmed at the idea that his vassal was carving a rival kingdom out for himself, Henry II made moves to seize Strongbow’s English lands and ordered his vassals to return to England. Strongbow quickly made submission, as did most of the Irish chiefs and Henry paid a brief visit in 1172 with a large Anglo-Norman army. Henry confirmed Strongbow in his possessions, but set up rival lordships to balance his power. Meath went to Hugh de Lacey with the support of fifty knights and given the 1172 date of Hugo’s claimed deed he, in all likelihood, was one of De Lacey’s men and not Strongbow’s.
By 1181, with dreams of empire, Henry had begun to set his sons up as "minor kings" of his far flung dominions. This proved to have disastrous results as his sons thereafter rebelled against him, apparently due to his cavalier behaviour towards their mother. John, known as "Lackland" because he was the youngest and therefore did not stand to inherit, was given Ireland to rule as its Lord. By this time the Norman invaders had begun to assimilate, having taken Irish wives and adopted Irish traits. The then teenaged John is said to have so insulted and abused them for this weakness that they allied themselves with the Irish chieftains and drove him out of Ireland. The reader for future reference should note this characteristic of John’s.
Henry II comes down to us as the cause of Thomas a Becket’s murder. He died in 1189 cursing his rebellious sons, except for John who had for the most part remained loyal. His elder brother having died, Richard of the Lionheart (1189 – 1199) inherited the crown. Richard bled England of every penny he could in order to pay for his participation in the third crusade. He led a combined army from England and his Aquitaine holdings in a futile bid to seize Jerusalem from the hands of Salladin. Along the way he spent an immense fortune and managed to make enemies of all of his crusading fellow kings. One of them managed to capture him on his way home from the middle east and forced his already over taxed subjects to pay a huge ransom for his release. John, who ruled during his absence, is said to have conspired in keeping his brother a prisoner.
Richard died in 1199, never having spent more than a few months in England. His brother John (1199 – 1216), no longer the "Lackland", assumed the crown. John has many modern apologists who point out some reasonable tax and administrational reforms he enacted. However, varied contemporary chroniclers from Ireland, France and England condemned him independently as a murderer, serial rapist, thief and traitor. His despotic rule resulted in the loss of Normandy to France in 1204 and the rebellion of his English barons culminating in the signing of the Magna Charta in 1215. His detestation of the church caused an edict to be placed on himself and all his English subjects. No marriages, baptisms nor burials were consecrated until John finally made obeisance and England became a vassal state of the Church of Rome.
On Hugh de Bathe / Bathonia we have some clear, contemporary documentation. He was an officer of the King’s Wardrobe under John, Sheriff of Buckinghamshire under Henry III in 1222 and Sheriff of Berkshire 1228 - 29 and justice of the Jews, 1226. He was collated to the Church of Stoke and prebend of the Chapel of Wallingford under Henry III’s patent in 1227. Hugh had also granted lands, or the income from his properties, at Werdeham, Berkshire and a meadow at Colthrop to the founding of a priory in the previous century and was granted the custody of the honour of Wallingford from 1227 to 1230.
The King’s Wardrobe first makes its appearance under John. It is thought to have evolved from an earlier institution, which cared for and maintained the king’s clothing and personal treasure at various locations throughout the kingdom. John developed the Wardrobe as an offset to the baron and ecclesiastic dominated Chancery and Parliament. A sort of high civil service, they were his loyal henchmen who carried out his bidding and ensured that his personal coffers were never empty. Though, during this period, such tasks were normally carried out by ecclesiastically trained "clericus" and indeed Hugh was referred to as such, a reading of the chronicler’s accounts of John’s many depredations would indicate that these men were not at all religiously inclined. The title "clericus" was given to a man who could read and write. During a later period, he had only to mumble his way through a Latin phrase to be given this distinction. The advantage in being a clericus was that the person was entitled to be tried for his crimes in an Ecclesiastical court, rather than a crown court, where sentences, fines and the burden of proof were more advantageous to the accused.
In 1215, while avoiding a French invasion force, John and his army attempted to cross the Wash. The tide came in and much of John’s baggage was carried out to sea, including both his personal and the crown’s treasure. They were never recovered. One wonders if Hugh de Bathe was present. It is reasonable to infer, from King John’s known detestation of his Anglo-Saxon subjects and the high positions that he held under both John and his son, Henry III that Hugh was of Norman lineage.
In 1222, John’s son and successor Henry III, appointed Hugh de Bathe as Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. Though a head for numbers and the ability to read and write would have been to his advantage, it was hardly the sort of job for a clerk. In 1226, Hugh was again appointed sheriff, but this time of Berkshire and at the same time was made a justice of the Jews. This last, in particular, indicates a continuing and trusted role in the royal court.
The Jews had migrated to England during the previous century. Unable to swear a Christian oath, they were excluded from any form of land tenure and office. However, they had the advantage of being exempt from the Catholic church’s bans and strictures regarding charging interest on loans. The English kings quickly perceived and took advantage of the opportunity offered. The Jews came under the immediate protection of the crown, in effect becoming the king’s chattels. As such, all they owned belonged to him and in return they were protected and allowed to conduct a business denied to all Christians. The profits were sufficiently large that the Exchequer was empowered to ensure the collection of outstanding debts owed to the Jews and the appointed sheriffs took on the role of collection agents. In turn, when needs arose, the king simply took whatever money he required from the Jews, often in the form of fines and obligatory "gifts". The Jews were also given their own justices, as the regular court system was highly prejudiced against them. Hugh’s role, as one of these justices, would have been to ensure that the flow of cash was not interrupted and that a portion of this wealth made its way into the king’s coffers. This accommodation continued until the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307), when a rising tide of anti-Semitism coupled with some Jews being convicted and executed for coin clipping, resulted in all of them being expelled from the realm, to be replaced by Italian bankers. A published theory states that the Jews were also acting as "bankers" or investment middlemen for those gentiles who wished to invest their spare cash at an advantage and get around the prohibition on charging interest. The evidence is compelling in that the lands held by many individuals, who owed significant amounts to the Jews, were taken over by wealthy, non Jewish land holders.
Men and women of this age, when approaching their final years, would often join religious institutions as secular clergy, or canons. More often than not all their property would be turned over to the church in exchange for sustenance and peace in their old age. This does not seem to be the case with Hugh. By 1227, he was deriving an income from the church of Stoke and the Chapel of Wallingford, probably from their tithes and land rental income. Indeed, Hugh may never have set foot in either establishment, because Hugh’s position was given by order of Henry III and not that of a bishop.
Henry III would purposely leave bishoprics vacant much to the Poe’s chagrin. As long as the post was vacant, he could appropriate its revenues for his own use, or bestow them upon whomever he wished. What better way to reward a valued servant, than to give him a pension of someone else’s money? This practice, indulged in by many of the English medieval kings, frequently resulted in conflicts and animosity between the church and state.
Hugh de Bathonia died in 1236, perhaps while serving as High Sheriff of Surrey. Henry III directed the sheriff of Dorsetshire, to deliver all of his goods and chattels to Sir Henry de Bathe/Bathonia. Whether a king’s writ was required in all cases of inheritance is a question of some moment when considering the nature of the relationship between Sir Henry and Hugh. The reasons for which will become clearer further in this narrative.
A claimed contemporary of Hugh, Augustin de Bathe/Bathonia is said to have held Heniton Seige (Wear), Sheepwash (Sepewasse), as well as Bathe manor/house in North Tawton, all in the county of Devon. It is further claimed, by another source, that he was the father of three sons: Walter de Baa/Bathonia, sheriff of Devon in 1217, Sir Henry de Bathe, a justice of the King’s Bench and Hugo de Bathe, who inherited the Irish holdings of the companion in arms to "Strongbow" and of the same name. However, no evidence has been found to support these claims and it would appear that they are based on faulty interpretations of John Prince’s "Worthies of Devon".
The younger Hugo de Bathe is said to have been still living after 1260 and had three sons. He was probably so busy holding his estates against the native Irish that he would have had little opportunity to visit Devon. What is certain is that a possible descendant Matthew had a son John who became Chief Magistrate for Dublin in 1351. Matthew is said to have held the manor of Rathfeig, in Meath and the custody of the King’s manor of Leixlip. The names, Matthew and John de Baa/Bathe, also appear in earlier records and are in all probability the same individuals. John de Baa and his wife Eglentina de Notyngham are granted properties in Dublin, 1349 and the same records record his father’s name as Matthew. Matthew de Baa/Bathe appears as a witness to a 1315 record granting land in Co. Kilkenny to a Thomas de Baa, son of David. Also signing as witnesses are Stephen and Nicholas de Baa. In all likelihood, these are all members of the same family. This family’s later coat of arms, Gules, a cross between four lions rampant argent, may indicate that a member had been a crusader. As we know little more regarding the early medieval branch of this family, or Norman-Irish history, we’ll leave it for another to tell their story.
As mentioned previously, most medieval landholders held their lands in return for knight’s service. This was normally a period of forty days per annum, during which he could be found mounting guard at his lord’s castle, or accompanying him as an escort as well as into battle. Within a few generations of the conquest, land was also being held freehold (leased or rented), with no military enfeoffment and Knight’s Fees were increasingly being held by women, children, ecclesiastics and the infirm, who could not fulfill the duties. Instead a payment, called "scutage", was made in order to provide for a mercenary knight during the required period of time.
Cash strapped overlords eager to accept cash in lieu of service, combined with many able bodied landholders being reluctant to endure the additional expense, inconvenience, deprivations and danger of military service, often resulted in a general shortage of fighting men. This led to regular, threatening demands by the medieval kings to induce the able bodied to fulfill their duties. "The Assize of Arms" of 1181, requires that whoever possesses a knight’s fee shall have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a shield, a lance and presumably a warhorse. A "free layman" whose lands and rents totaled 16 marks per annum, was required to have the same, though probably of a lesser quality. The assize goes on to detail the military equipage that men of diminishing levels of income must own and promises dire consequences to wealth and limb should he be found without.
Henry II’s command is found repeated by his son John in 1210, with some alterations such as the maintenance of a longbow by land holders valued at twenty shillings, and so on. By 1278, Edward I was directing his sheriffs to distrain (seize); "…all men of your balliwick possessing land to the value of £20 per year…and who ought to be knights, but are not, to receive from us the arms of knighthood…(before Christmas)". There are no indications that these edicts had any long term effect. It would therefore appear that our "Arthuresque" concept of the medieval noble knight, somewhat misses the mark. Unlike France, where if you held land you were noble and only a noble could hold land, a system that continued right up to the French revolution, in England no such prerequisite seems to have been required. Even able-bodied holders of feudal land, shirked their military duties and training and did not bear the minor nobility title of knight. Men of "common" birth acquired lands equivalent to a knight’s fee and were knighted at the king’s insistence, much to the chagrin of the men who aspired to that rank by right of birth. Indeed, French chroniclers of the Hundred Years War, noted the unseemly familiarity between English knights and the men in their command, suggesting that class structures at this time in England were not as rigid as we may suppose. This may be attributed to William’s shortage of loyal soldiers and his barons having granted land to any Norman, of whatever class, capable of wielding a sword.
To put monetary values in perspective; pounds, marks and shillings were terms of account, the silver penny being the only specie in general circulation. A pound was worth approximately 160 pennies, a mark 100 and a shilling 12. A sheep of the best breed could be had for 10 pennies and a cow or horse for 48. Warhorses (Destriers) cost somewhat more and a knight’s armour and other equipage could set him back an entire year’s income. So it is little wonder that many men opted for paying scutage.
Young boys were sent to live in the households of other family members, or their father’s overlord. The idea being to form strong alliances that as well as defensive would also provide opportunities for family members. There they would fill the role of household and personal servants and receive the education, or training to which their patron felt they were suited. An heir could look forward to assuming the lands of his father. A younger son might receive his mother’s dower lands, assuming she so willed. A fortuitous marriage was arranged to an heiress for others, but the vast majority of younger sons were on their own. For those of martial inclination the medieval period offered plenty of opportunities. Military training began quite young and from a squire one did not automatically become a knight. A knight was required to possess the necessary means to support his position i.e., £20 per annum and land was the only source of this income. However, military prowess in battle, or in the mêlée, could be rewarded by such a grant.
Mêlées could be part of a local fair, or sponsored by a magnate as part of a celebration. There does not appear to have been any class restrictions regarding participation, or whom one could fight. As long as you had the necessary horse and equipment, whether owned or borrowed and were capable of handling them, you were eligible. The future Edward I (1272 – 1307), as a young man, fought in mêlées all over Europe bringing with him a team of picked men. He certainly did not just fight other princes. Bertrand du Guesclin in the following century, made his name and fortune in mêlées and later rose to become Marshall of France, though he was born to "middle-class" parents.
Our perception of two knights on horseback charging each other on opposing sides of a barrier was not the common practice until later in the 14th century. Mêlées were organized around two opposing forces of anywhere from five to two hundred mounted men, fighting it out until the last man stood, or the participants were too exhausted to carry on. They could go on for days and range all over the countryside. Fatal injuries were common despite un-tipped lances and using the flat of the sword. The idea was to unseat your opponent, or beat him into submission. His horse, arms, armour as well as a predetermined ransom, were then yours. You then turned your attention to another opponent and won his surrender, or lost everything you had gained until there was no one left to battle. Fortunes were made and lost; Edward is reputed to have made and lost several. Reputations were made and great honours were paid to the best. William the Marshal, said to have been the greatest knight of his day, described at one point how he made his fortune and reputation. He simply avoided combat until everyone else was exhausted and then went after the ones who had won the most.
Magnates with land to grant and seeking to augment their defensive, or offensive forces would recruit from amongst the younger sons at the mêlées. Theoretically any knight could bestow the honour on another man. However, he was then responsible for ensuring his candidate’s financial ability to maintain the honour, as well as his upholding of the code of chivalry. Therefore, this was seldom done and ultimately the sole benefactor became the monarch.
Personal coats of arms, as we know them, began around the time of the third crusade, (1190 – 1192), when the great battle helms began to cover the face making identification impossible and the surcoat was adopted to shade steel armour in the scorching sun of the middle east. Prior to this a man wore the badge or insignia of his feudal lord on his shield and some of these may be present on the Bayeux tapestry of C. 1066. Initially, Coats of arms were the prerogative of the fighting man and of his own design. As with surnames, they were designed to be unique, particularly since their bearers did not want their feats of arms to be mistaken for another’s. Authorities suggest there were some five to six thousand men of the knightly class and a few hundred of the higher nobility during this period, but this is not an indication of the actual number of coats of arms. Male members of the same family would, as a rule, bear the same arms distinguished by marks of cadency, common by the end of the 13th century, with the heir’s being different from that of the third or fourth son and so on. A younger son having married an heiress, or having acquired lands by his own efforts, might change his own arms to reflect this. As well, merchants and other commoners having acquired some measure of wealth and the pretensions that go with it, also adopted the fashion.
Heralds began to appear in the retinues of nobles. Initially messengers, they were also charged with the task of identifying individuals by their arms. Under Edward I (1272 – 1307) some strides took place toward cataloguing and regulating coats of arms, but this attempt came to naught under the dissolute reign of his son. It wasn’t until the reign of Henry IV (1399 – 1413) that the Heralds were dispatched to the various parts of the kingdom in order to determine and assess each claimant’s right. Inquiries were conducted into their pedigrees and many families were found to have had no right to the arms they possessed, as they could not prove to have been descended from the gentle classes, or did not have the income necessary to uphold the honour. Nevertheless, these families continued to pass their arms to their sons and they can be found in various general armories. Successive monarchs found it necessary to repeat these visitations and James I (1603 -1625), recognizing the enormous revenue potential began selling the rights with little regard to the candidate’s pedigree, a practice that has continued to this day.
Crests originated as a fan shaped decoration, or perhaps protective reinforcement on the top of the helm. They later developed into all kinds of elaborate decoration depicting symbols and animals not necessarily depicted on the shield and surcoat. Various members of the same family would have had individual crests. It is unlikely, given their rather heavy construction and cumbersome nature, that they would have been used for anything other than ceremonial occasions and tournaments.
We have so far found sources for several coats-of-arms associated with the names of Baa/Bada/Bathon/Bathonia/Bathe dating from the 13th century. In conversations with learned students of heraldry it has been indicated that "fixed" inherited coats of arms were not a general rule until the end of the thirteenth century. Furthermore, it was possible for a man to have more than one shield during his lifetime, perhaps changing as he achieved accomplishments or attained new positions. From different sources Augustine de Baa, son of Walter of East Raddon, is claimed to have had two completely different shields. Furthermore, his known nephew, Thomas de Baa, had another in the 14th century. Unfortunately, this prevents us from forming any definitive conclusions regarding the interrelationships of the various 13th C. individuals of the name. For instance there are several Walter de Bathons of Devon; the Sheriffs of 1216-19, 1236 -51, 1290 and 1324 as well as Walter of East Raddon, who died in 1275. Is it possible that the sheriff of 1236-1251 is the same man who held East Raddon? We don't know. Is it possible that they were all related? We can't be sure, but it is difficult to accept that there were several contemporary Walter de Bathons, all unrelated, all living in Devon, all attending the same shire and hundred courts where they surely knew of each other and all appearing on juries (perhaps together) at a time when having a surname was relatively rare.
Medieval landholding families were extremely peripatetic (mobile) despite the absence of, or extremely poor condition of the roads. Men and women usually held widely dispersed lands and manors, often in several different counties. Having depleted the resources of one they would pack up their few portable belongings and with their household in train, move on to the next. The largest and often the only piece of furniture they owned was their bed.
Manors of this time were almost completely self-sustaining, producing everything required for the medieval household from food and drink to clothing. Beer and bread were the staple diet, even consumed for breakfast. Wine, though imported was readily available and relatively cheap. The manor lands could be quite extensive and sometimes comprised one or more villages, though in many cases there were several manors associated with a single village. Freemen held land from the manor in exchange for cash or goods and often were required to perform services as well. Villeins (serfs) were as much a part of the manor property as its cattle and sheep. They could not leave or marry without the owners permission and would be included in any sale of the property. Their obligation required that they work the owners land, crops and livestock, even to the detriment of their own. If granted the right the lord could hold a manor court, separate but subordinate to the royal and ecclesiastic judicial processes. In these cases the villeins and freemen were given over to the justice of their owner. Day to day management of the manor was in the hands of a steward, who would often be of gentle birth. In all likelihood, the holders would have seen their manors as little more than a source of sustenance and income with which to maintain their position in society.
The manor house would have contained a single large open room, with wooden screens used to separate the lord’s bed from the main area and give he and his wife a little privacy, especially as everyone slept naked. The rest of the household slept on the floor and would have gone to bed and arose with the sun. The hard packed dirt floor was covered with rushes which were seldom changed, just added to and into this was mixed the refuse from the meals and all manner of waste. An open fireplace in the centre of the room would have been the main source of heat, with the smoke exiting through a hole in the thatched roof. Fireplaces and chimneys for residential buildings came later. Contrary to our perception of the middle ages, the interior and exterior walls may have been richly decorated with paint. There were few windows in the wattle and daub walls. These would have had wooden shutters to keep out the cold, as window glass was in short supply, of poor quality and extremely expensive. Outbuildings would have included the kitchens, larders, stables and other animal pens. A tower or defensive stockade would have been built during turbulent periods.
Trestle tables, leaned against the walls when not in use, were set up at meal times along with backless benches upon which the diners sat. Two people shared a dish, which were heavily spiced compared to our modern tastes and individually ate from a large loaf of bread that had been hollowed out to form a bowl (a trencher). The cloves, ginger, pepper and a wide variety of other additives, many of which are no longer in use, were introduced by returning crusaders. Knives were the only eating utensils, being supplied by the diners themselves.
As previously mentioned, in 1204 King John lost Normandy to the French due to the lack of support provided by his disaffected Norman and Anglo-Norman barons. By this time the Anglo-Normans, though many still held lands in Normandy and more often than not married into other Norman families, had begun to see themselves as separate. The loss of Normandy hastened their assimilation by the "English" population, but the Norman French language would still remain pre-eminent for many generations to come.
John, despite the loss, never changed his attitude toward his subjects. Inflamed by his depredations and his policies regarding the church of Rome, his barons forced him to sign the Magna Charta in 1215. Some questions arise as to the importance of the Magna Charta in the English, medieval political and judicial systems, given to it by Victorian scholars and historians. John’s grandfather Henry I had issued a similar document reaffirming the customs and ancient rights of his Anglo-Norman barons. However, he later saw fit to make sure all known copies disappeared and thereafter ignored its previsions. John took a different tact and simply renounced the Magna Charta a few months after signing it. He went further and purchased a dispensation from his new ally the Pope, on the grounds that it was signed under duress, thereby nullifying the agreement. Though re-issued twice by John’s successor Henry III, while still in his childhood, the king was exempted from any of the stipulations, which could broadly be said to interfere with his rights as the monarch and during his long reign he ignored the rest. There were no party politics, as we know them, at this time. A man looked after his own and his family’s interests. His grievances and occasional rebellions against the king, in this and proceeding centuries, stemmed from his own ambition and not from any consideration of commonly held rights. The barons who signed the charter would not have seen its restrictions as applying to themselves in their relationships with the common folk. They simply wanted John to stop what he was doing to them.
Some of the disaffected barons now invited Phillip II, King of France, to usurp the throne of England. Accordingly, a French army landed on the English coast under the command of the future Louis VIII and quickly occupied much of southeast England. The following year, in October of 1216, John died, leaving his chaotic kingdom in the hands of his nine-year-old son Henry III. William the Marshal was appointed regent. He managed to rally most of the barons to the young king’s cause and drove out the French by Sept. 1217.
Walter de Baa/Bathe/Bathonia (Azure, a saltire engrailed or, according to Richard Izacke) was appointed High Sheriff of Devon for the years 1216 – 18 (17 – 19?). Risdon, Izake and all other sources for his information have been found to be incorrect. The sheriff for this time was not Walter de Bathon! It appears that the cause is Risdon's faulty dating of records related to Walter de Bathon, sheriff 1236-1251, from which all other sources took their lead. Sheriffs were chosen by the king to serve in the following year, but sometimes they served for only a matter of months. As Sheriff, Walter was the king’s representative and chief law enforcement officer for the county. He would have in turn appointed others as sub-sheriffs and held wide, often arbitrary powers. He was responsible for the taking and holding of prisoners, receiving and escorting the justices, organizing juries and carrying out the sentences of the courts. He lived in and moved between the royal castles and commanded a force of men-at-arms. When required he would recruit forces for the king. In general, he imposed the king’s will on baron and commoner alike and these powers were made even more formidable by the fact that he was also the tax collector.
At Easter and Michaelmas, (21 March, 29 September) the sheriffs were required to appear before the courts of the Exchequer and render their accounts. In attendance would be some of the highest officers of the crown. The clerks of the treasury would sit at one side of a table with a checkered top (whence the name Exchequer) and lay out in the squares using counters, the pounds, marks, shillings and pence that they believed the king was due; a sort of early abacus. The often-illiterate sheriff would stand on the other side and match the amounts, or make promises for the outstanding balance. The amounts were negotiable and opened up for the sheriff the opportunity to enrich himself since anything extra he collected would belong to him.
Henry III (1216 – 1272) had the nasty habit of appropriating other men’s property for himself. This he compounded by passing over his English nobility for positions of wealth and power, in favour of his French relatives and favourites. By all accounts he was an extremely vindictive and arrogant man, who would damn you and ignore you one minute and then pretend that nothing was wrong the next. His greed and lack of funds caused him to play fast and loose with both the church and the nobility. He’d swear holy oaths to agreements he made with them and then purchase dispensations from the Pope, much as his father had done before him. His behavior caused several minor rebellions amongst his barons and much ill feeling, culminating in Simon de Montfort’s rebellion in 1264.
To illustrate the time and the character of Henry III, there is no better story than that of Sir Simon. Simon was a poor French relative of a rich old English Earl, who had no heirs. Simon asked for and received the unprecedented gift of one of the old Earl’s earldoms. A gift many in England thought should have come to them. Simon quickly became a favourite of Henry III. So much so that Henry conspired against parliament and his barons in the marriage of Simon with his widowed, royal sister. Again the barons were furious, as this now made the French upstart a member of the Royal family! Henry stripped his sister’s dower lands of everything saleable before turning them over to Simon and sent him off on military expeditions for which Simon ended up paying most of the costs leaving him heavily in debt. For some strange reason their relationship cooled! Henry, in front of many members of the court, accused Simon of having seduced (raped) his sister. A very serious accusation in those days! He then repeated the accusation along with others before the assembled parliament. Simon was livid. He swore that if Henry were not the king, he would pay with his life for such words. Simon formed an alliance with other disaffected barons and using the threat of civil war forced Henry to accept and rule through a council of its members. Henry chaffed at this restriction of his rights for several years. In 1265 he felt strong enough to put them back in their places. Realizing that he had no choice, Simon raised his standard against the king and fought him at the Battle of Lewes in 1264. Henry III and his son Edward were both captured.
Simon now had a wolf by the ears; he couldn’t let go! The barons, never more than lukewarm in their support, now turned against him. By holding the king he also controlled the government and through it their interests. In 1264, the council had forced Henry to summon parliament in order to air and address their grievances and those of their supporters. In 1265, Simon again forced Parliament to be called, but fearing a lack of support from the barons he called upon each county and borough to send elected representatives to offset their opposition and so began the common man’s participation in government.
A tactical error by Prince Edward had cost his father the battle of Lewes. In 1265, seeking to make amends, he broke his parole and escaped his captors. Having raised the barons he surprised Simon’s forces at Evesham, trapping them in a bend of a river. Simon had the king with him and fearing what was to come, had him dressed in his livery and securely tied to his saddle. Simon and most of his supporters were killed. Ralph Basset, a baron and probable relation of Sir Henry de Bathe, was killed despite trying to surrender. Apparently only Henry’s high pitched, wheedling voice saved him from a similar fate. Simon's body was stripped, dismembered and had other indignities done to it.
Henry immediately dispossessed any and all of Simon’s supporters and even those suspected of siding with him. This included a large proportion of the knightly and noble class. Edward talked him out of it a few years later and the dispossessed were allowed to pay a fine and reclaim their lands. Mr. Henry Summerson informs us that the situation was quite the opposite. Edward was responsible for the dispossession and Henry talked him out of it.
Three other personages had prominent roles during Henry III’ s reign and deserve mention here. Richard, Earl of Cornwall was Henry’s younger brother and reputed to be the wealthiest man in Europe. He seems to have had a golden touch with everything he tried. Much of his fortune was made when he was given the task of re-minting the coins of the realm. Simply put, he’d receive a portion of all the silver pennies he minted. He was captured during the Battle of Lewes and released after Simon de Montfort’s death. He later spent a great deal of his money buying his election as Holy Roman Emperor and wasted most of the rest trying to hold his empire together.
John Mansel was a priest and one of the king’s principal advisors. He is claimed to have been the brains behind some of Henry’s more underhanded and treacherous tactics, such as buying dispensations from the Pope in order to annul sworn agreements with his barons. Mansel apparently amassed several fortunes from bribes and favours, but died (1265) almost penniless having wasted it all on loans and lavish entertainments for the king.
Fulk Bassett was the Bishop of London. He was a key player in Simon de Montfort’s rebellion and parliaments and for that was forced out of his Bishopric after Evesham.
Sir Henry de Bathe/Bathonia ( A chevron between three wolves rampant ?; from a tomb in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford) is claimed to have been born at the family seat of Bathe House and the younger brother of the aforementioned Walter de Baa. Edward Foss, in his "Lives of the Judges", disputes this claim and infers that he was the son of the aforementioned Hugh de Bathonia, the officer in King John’s Wardrobe. However, this surmise was disputed by the late C.A.F. Meekings on the grounds that the first record of Henry (in 1221) is only six years after the first mention of Hugh (1215). Meekings considered the two to have been related, particularly in the fact that Henry succeeded Hugh as deputy sheriff of Berkshire in 1228-9, as well as their common involvement in the administration of the honour of Berkhamsted.
Before and during the reign of Henry I (1100- 1135), virtually all clerical and civil service positions were held by ordained priests, as they were often the only highly educated men. During this period the Roman Catholic church decided to tighten up some of the laxities that they’d previously overlooked, most notably their priests having wives and children. The guilty were given the choice of giving up their families or being defrocked and many chose the latter. These men now began to form the core of an educated, secular civil service. The successor, Henry II (1135- 1154), had many disputes with the church, particularly over the jurisdictions of the royal and ecclesiastic courts. These disputes culminated in the murder of Thomas a Becket. The king naturally had doubts about the loyalty of his clergy dominated civil service and therefore appointed more and more secular scholars to fill their places. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were expanded to include secular students and from there they could go on to Paris and even Rome to finish their educations. A new profession had opened up for the younger sons of the landholding classes and this is the path that Henry de Bathe took, sometime during the first quarter of the thirteenth-century.
Being a student at this time was not a particularly safe occupation. The townspeople seem to have seen the students as their natural enemies. Riots and killings were common. At Oxford, a particularly ugly incident took place while Henry may have been a student there. A young servant girl, from one of the taverns, was found murdered. The townsmen rose up blaming the students. A riot took place during which several of the students were taken prisoner. After having obtained permission from King John they hung two of them as an example for the others. The faculty and student body fled for their lives, effectively shutting down the university for some time.
Henry de Bathe studied and practised law. His first known role as an attorney came in 1226, when he represented Warin le Dispenser in a suit against Nicholas de St. Bridget over a debt of four and a half marks. From 1242 to 1248 he was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire. During roughly the same period, 1238 to 1250, Henry regularly sat as a justice in the Court of Common Pleas. This court was made up of five members and normally held hearings at Westminster Hall. They heard civil cases that did not affect the crown. In 1247, he was raised to the King’s Bench along with Hugh Giffard. This court was the senior court and held jurisdiction over all other courts. They heard cases that affected the king, appeals from lower courts and cases involving persons of high status that could not be dealt with at a lower level. The king presided over their sessions at this time and therefore there was no chief justice, a position that has been claimed for Henry de Bathe. However, he was probably the senior judge at one point.
Westminster Hall was built by William Rufus in 1099. It was during his time the hall was used for meetings of the king's council as well as banquets. In later centuries it became the seat of the three major courts. Nearest the entrance on the right hand side sat the Court of Common Pleas. Further up the hall sat the King's Bench and the Chancery sat at the furthest end on the left. The justices sat on oak benches above the crowd of litigants, witnesses, jurors etc. below. The Exchequer sat in an adjoining chamber.
During his time on the King’s Bench, Henry was also dispatched on various commissions of assize, usually as presiding judge. He was in Surrey and Sussex in 1248, Kent, Middlesex, Southhamptonshire and Wiltshire in 1249 and Lincolnshire in 1250. Assizes were literally traveling courts. They would hear both civil and criminal cases in the counties under their jurisdiction. While on these commissions Henry and his fellow judges would move from one royal castle to the next bringing with them a large entourage of clerks, servants and attorneys and were escorted by the sheriff and his men-at-arms. The judges apparently pocketed the fines they levied. This was their income. The fines were prescribed by the king and varied in amount depending on the offence. In addition they would have their food and other daily requirements provided by the royal manors and castles. His family probably accompanied him.
Henry’s wife, Aline (Aliva, Alice) Sandford/Bassett, might have been a product of the marriage between John Sandford and Alice Bassett in about 1210. Unfortunately, this information comes without a source. Phillip Basset, justiciar and baron of Henry III's, and brother of Fulk Basset, bishop of London is given as her uncle. Dr. David Crook confirms these relationships.
From the Victoria County History of Middlesex : "In the mid 13th century Fulk Basset, bishop of London, had land and rents in Stepney in his own right, possibly part of the Basset estates which he inherited in 1241. Part of the Stepney land was held by the Cole family (q.v.), and in 1250 a grant of land and rent was made to Fulk by Asketin Cole. At about the same time Fulk received lands and tenements in Stepney from Adrian Eswy (or Aswy), confirmed to Fulk and his heirs by Adrian's brother Thomas. (Footnote 73) Fulk died in 1259 and the Basset estates passed to Sir Philip Basset, justiciar, and on his death in 1271 to his daughter Aline and her second husband Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk. (Footnote 74) Part of the Stepney land was held by Philip's niece Aline, wife of Henry de Ba or BATHONIA, judge of the Common Pleas, and in 1259 her son John de Bathonia conveyed 3 messuages, 62 a., 16s. 4d. rent and appurtenances in Finsbury and Stepney, with the manor of Uplambourn (Berks.), all part of Aline's estate, to Nicholas of Yattendon and his wife Alice for their lives, with remainder to John and his heirs. (Footnote 75) Nicholas married Aline de Bathonia as her second husband, (Footnote 76) and although Henry de Bathonia is said not to have died until 1260, (Footnote 77) it seems likely that the grant was connected with this marriage. Aline died c. 1274 seized of a messuage and 27 a. in Stepney held of the bishop of London for 42d. p.a., a messuage and 2 a. land held of the heirs of her uncle Sir Philip Basset for 12d. p.a., 3 a. held of Ralph Huscarl for 6s. p.a., and rents of assize in Stepney, which passed to her heir Sir John de Bathonia. (Footnote 78) The property has not been located, although land of John de Ba on the south side of a highway was recorded. (Footnote 79) John died c. 1291, when 45 a. and rents from free tenants, all held of the bishop of London, passed to his daughter Joan, wife of John de Bohun. (Footnote 80) Sir John Philpot c. 1380 held 28 a. land once of Robert de Bine (possibly Bohun), which was not part of Hulls, for the same amount of quitrent that Aline and John had owed to the bishop. (Footnote 81)"
Young ladies married young by our standards, usually 14 or 15 years of age. Men married a bit older, normally once they had obtained a position by which they could support a family. The Sanfords and Bassetts, at this time, were wealthy and powerful families. Both had representatives sign the Magna Charta. The Bassett’s progenitor is said to have fought at Hastings and held land in Cornwall. Members of this family were particularly prominent as baronial leaders, but as their interests diverged so did their loyalties; Ralph Bassett died by Simon de Montfort’s side, a Hugh Bassett was captured fighting for the king at the Battle of Lewes. As most marriages were arranged between families, it’s difficult to say why the Sandfords and Bassetts would have seen a young attorney as a suitable member of the family. Any number of explanations may present themselves.
Although not of his household, Henry, particularly while on the king’s bench, would have come into frequent contact with both Henry III and his principal advisors Richard of Cornwall and John Mansel. Perhaps he attended the many elaborate suppers Mansel gave for the king.
In November 1250, Sir Phillip d’Arcy (Darcy), an officer of the king’s household, accused Henry of some very serious crimes. That the king was behind the charges is evident by their nature and the position of the accuser. On 17 February 1251, Sir Henry de Bathe/Bathonia was brought before the king and his parliament, probably assembled in Westminster Hall, charged with the following crimes: extortion, taking bribes, letting a convicted criminal escape and raising the barons in revolt against the king. There must have been a few guffaws as the first two charges were read out. John Mansel was well known for such corrupt practices and more than a few of the assembled members had greased the king’s palm, willingly or not. The second charge, if that is in fact the wording, should have been laid against the sheriff as he was responsible for holding prisoners. The last charge was the real reason for Henry to be put on trial and it was a capital charge. The King wanted Henry dead!
Henry III had never had a good relationship with his barons. The situation had not yet deteriorated to the point it would reach with Simon de Montfort 14 years later, but there had been several rebellions or uprisings. What role Henry may have been suspected in playing is not known, because whatever evidence his prosecutors had against him was never presented. Being a cagey old lawyer, Henry de Bathe pulled an old statute out of the books and effectively stopped the trial.
Norman law gave an accused several defense options. The most famous was the trial by combat, by which the accused and the accuser could battle it out and the winner would be declared in the right. This form of trial had been banned many years before, but reappeared from time to time in the reigns of later kings. Another option was to find 24 honourable peers of the accused who would swear that he was not guilty. Henry de Bathe had 24 knights of the shire brought before the house, many his Sandford and Bassett relations, and "give bail". In other words swear that he was not guilty. Though this had apparently ceased to be a legitimate defense, the psychological effect on this largely, Anglo-Norman assembly must have been tremendous. Though the charges were not withdrawn Henry was freed to go. What induced these knights to risk the wrath of the king can only be guessed at. Certainly family ties and alliances played a very important role in medieval English society. One could also imagine their implication in his crimes, with the inducement being that if Henry went down then so might they.
King Henry III was furious, which clearly implicates him in the conspiracy to lay the charges. He mounted on high (the justices' benches) and called out to the assembly, "If any man here will slay Henry de Bathonia, he will not be impeached of his death and I now pronounce his pardon!" and then stalked out of the chamber. John Mansel spoke out and warned those who might be encouraged to carry out the king’s wishes that he was apt to change his mind and there were many of Bathonia’s relatives present who would seek to avenge his death. Nevertheless, Henry de Bathe seems to have gone into hiding (a source now lost says he fled to France). Whatever the case, his wife Aliva now took charge.
Sir William Pole reported some centuries later that "Bathe’s wife feed ye great men of those days 2,000 marks, to procure his pardon." This was an enormous sum of money; 32 marks was the minimum income of a knight and 320 marks was the average annual income of a baron! Simon de Montfort, at the time leading the king’s forces in France, demanded the same amount to keep his army in the field. If this money belonged to Sir Henry he certainly didn’t earn it from his judge’s stipend. And, to whom did this money flow? "John Mansel and Richard, Earl of Cornwall made interest for him", according to Pole. Both of these worthies were reputedly highly susceptible to a bribe and had the ear of the king. Fulk Bassett, the Bishop of London and an uncle through marriage, also spoke out for him. Still, it took three years before Henry de Bathe was returned to the king’s favour, a further 2,000 mark fine being levied against him (extortion?). It’s possible that Pole mistook this fine for the bribes he says Aliva paid out. Henry III had a long history of first antagonizing and then bestowing favours upon his lords and barons. Accordingly, Henry was restored as a justice and given a grant of land. Exactly which property and where it was located is not exactly clear. (The PRO contains several contemporary records of Henry and his wife acquiring lands in Lambourne and Upper Lambourne, Berkshire. According to another source they eventually acquired all of the manor of Upper Lambourne and, amongst others, the manor of Edwinston) It may have been a backhanded compliment as these grants were normally given for the term of the person’s life and would thereafter revert to the crown. Henry may have repeated the same trick he played on his sister and stripped the manor of all its valuables. The holder would then have to pay for its restoration and upkeep, just to have it denied to his heir. Tristram Risdon also claims he held lands in Devonshire, but does not provide details. He is said to have used his reputed "ill gotten gains" to acquire lands and manors in many of the counties he worked in.
Sir Henry de Bathe died in late 1260 or early 1261 and despite his losses is still said to have died a wealthy man. A tomb in the Lady Chapel of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford was long claimed to have been his. Sometime in the mid 19th century the tomb's monument was claimed to be that of Sir George Nowers. Upon what evidence the assumption was made is unknown, but there is evidence that the base of the tomb monument does indeed belong to Sir Henry de Bathe. (See The Tomb)
Henry’s one known son and heir was allowed more time to pay of the balance of his father’s 2,000-mark fine. Had he been a minor when his father died it would have placed his mother, Aline, in a very precarious position. Under Canon Law, having carnal knowledge of a woman was recognized as a true marriage, whether she was willing, or not. Aline's wealth would have made her a prime target, as all her dower lands, her widow’s portion and the inheritance of her minor children would have come under the control of her rapist. This occurred during the reign of Edward I to a member of the extended royal family. She was kidnapped and held by one of the lords of the Welsh Marches. Not only did Edward not do anything to punish the man, he even welcomed the "newlyweds" to his court.
Dower lands were given a girl as part of the marriage contract, usually from the estates of her parents. Though they belonged to her and she could will them to whomever she wished, her husband managed the properties and derived the income from them. The only stipulation was that he could not purposely do anything to degrade their value. This also applied to a man who had the wardship of a minor until he/she came of age, making the possession of a royal, or particularly wealthy minor heir, a much sought after commodity. These were bestowed as rewards and favours by the king. The widow’s portion was usually one-third of her late husband’s estate. This she would have for her maintenance until she died and then be passed to the heir. The bulk of the estate would belong to the minor heir, who would come into possession by his late teens, or in the case of a female when she married, assuming the mother’s "husband" allowed him to live that long.
The foregoing account of the life of Sir Henry was derived mainly from the relevant entries in the works of William Pole, Edward Foss and the Dictionary of National Biography. It must be noted that contemporary medieval records are extremely difficult to analyze, with repetitive first names, illegible handwriting, many abbreviations and written in Latin, or Norman-French. The landholding classes often had properties in several counties making it difficult to discern whether the records refer to different persons, or a single individual. Thus the events in one man’s life can easily be mistaken for another’s.
In the records collected by Rev. C. Moor in his "Knights of Edward I" are found other events, which strongly appear to belong to the same Sir Henry de Bathe/Bathonia. There are two explainable discrepancies. Moor notes Sir Henry as being mentioned as a former justice in the eyre of Kent in 1274. On the face of it this would appear to be another man, as Sir Henry is recorded as dying in 1260. However, eyres were normally held every 9-10 years, but there was often a much longer interval and as Sir Henry is recorded as a "former justice", the eyre referred to may very well have occurred prior to his death. Also, Moor records Sir Henry’s widow’s name as Aline, this is supported by contemporary records, whereas Foss gives Aliva. The discrepancy may be attributable to a difficulty in reading the original script. Aliva’s death is noted as occurring in the year 1273 and Aline’s inquest in August of 1274, a not unusual lapse of time.
John de Bathonia, Henry's heir, is recorded as being a full man in 1274, that being of an age between 24 and 40. Aliva, shortly after Henry’s death, married Nicholas de Yattington and if the younger age is accepted John may very well have been a minor (<21) in 1260. His mother’s lands in Berkshire, Middlesex, London, Norfolk, Sussex etc. were given over to him after the inquest of her death. This demonstrates the wide dispersion of family held lands in the English medieval period and provides an indication of the wealth of Sir Henry. John apparently had three wives, Phillipa, Eleanor and Maud and also held lands in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Essex, to name but a few and died in September of 1291. He had an only daughter, probably by Eleanor, Joan who married John Bohn. A 1291 close roll orders the escheator to turn over the lands of John de Bathonia to John Bohn and Joan his wife. Joan is recorded as giving land in Lincolnshire to Hugh Bathe (see medieval records). Hugh Bathe in turn grants land to the husband of his sister, Aline. How were they related?
More interestingly, this John was apparently one of Simon de Montfort’s rebels! He was captured at Northhampton and had some of his Lincolnshire lands seized by the Earl of Gloucester. In late 1267 he and his men were received into the king’s peace and he was allowed to pay a fine for the return of his other lands. Was Sir Henry de Bathe persecuted because of the activities of his son? Dr. Crook does not consider this a possibility. He writes, "In his account of Henry of Bath's disgrace in 1251, Meekings concluded that it arose out of land dealings in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and that these in some ways affected the future prospects of two of his wife Alina's children: 'The ambitious wife of a great royal servant, bent on her childrens' advancement, prompts her husband to advance the family fortunes in ways which conflict with the interests of established families.' His family was on this explanation partly responsible for the events which led to his downfall. Your suggestion that his son Sir John de Bath was perhaps involved in his fall seems very unlikely, because the material about him is a little later than 1251. In 1253 John was involved, with his wife Philippa, in a dispute with his father-in-law Geoffrey of Benniworth, which Meekings interprets as being in effect a dispute between Henry of Bath and Benniworth. During the dispute Benniworth actually abducted his own daughter, but the ultimate outcome is not known. The relevant references are all to documents held here: C 66/64, m. 13d (patent roll 37 Henry II); JUST 1/1178, rot. 15d; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1247-58, p. 239; and Close Rolls 1251-53, p. 420.
John de Bathonia is recorded as holding £40 worth of lands in Yorkshire. He is identified by the Rev. C. Moor as being Henry's son & heir In 1298 and again in 1303, John de Bathonia was appointed Custos of Windsor Park. In 1300 and 1301 he was summoned by Edward I to serve against the Scots (events that will be dealt with further in this account). This John was dead by 1305, a date that may suggest that he was not Henry's direct heir and is likely confused with the son of Fulf de Bathonia, below.
Sir Peter de Baa / Bathe received an Episcopal license to have a chapel on his lands in the parish of Lambourne in 1334 and in 1340 was granted an oratory in his manor of Edwinston in Berkshire. It is apparent that these lands came down to Sir Peter from Sir Henry, but through whom?
In Devon during the same period, Walter de Bathe/Bathonia, (Azure, three chevrons argent according to Richard Izacke, Ermine a bend gules according to others) the claimed son of Walter de Baa/Bathonia, the sheriff of Devon in 1217, had a career span that closely paralleled that of Sir Henry de Bathe’s rise and temporary fall. Also Walter married the sister of Robert Giffard of Bickington, who may very well have been related to the same Hugh Giffard, who was promoted to the King’s Bench alongside Sir Henry. Family ties being what they were in the thirteenth-century these may not have been mere coincidences. C.A.F. Meekings considered them to be "kinsmen".
In 1236, Walter was made sub-sheriff by the then sheriff, Nicholas de Molis. However, Molis’ other duties to Henry III prevented him from fulfilling the responsibilities and most were left in the hands of Walter. On April 25, 1238, Walter was appointed High Sheriff in his own right and was reappointed each year, until leaving office at Easter 1251; shortly after Henry de Bathe’s downfall. This long term of service has no precedent in Devon and could only have been achieved through powerful court influence. Although Walter was well thought of in Devon during his term in office, he was plagued in 1251 with charges of "trespasses and injuries". An inquiry into these affairs fined him ten gold marks, but he was subsequently pardoned and his fine returned to him later in the same year. One might wonder if the Henry III had anything to do with it. As Walter’s known activities as sheriff are described in Henry Summerson’s "Crown Pleas of the Devon Eyre of 1238", we’ll not belabour the reader with them here.
Mr. Summerson says Sheriff Walter became lord of Colebrooke "and much else besides". The de Bathes are, according to local histories, said to have held Colebrooke from C. 1241 to 1330. Walter founded a chantry in the Church of St. Andrew there in 1260 and another Walter is said to have built the Lady Chapel in 1300 and is buried under the south window in that area of the church. It appears from this that his son and grandson became High Sheriff in their turn. However, there is a lot of confusion caused by the repetitive use of the name of Walter! From the information available we surmise the following lineage:
Walter de Bathe/Bathonia became High Sheriff of Devon in 1290 and is possibly a son of Walter above.
Walter de Bathe/Bathonia according to Risdon, was Sheriff of Devon in 1324, but he contradicts himself in his Knights of Devon by giving the 1324 sheriff's name as William. Vivian, in his compilation of the visitations of Cornwall says that a Mauger De Sancto Albino, died 1294(?), witnessed a deed for a Sir William de Bathe, Sheriff of Devon in 1324 AND Lord of Colebrooke. The Norman St Aubyns' family seat was at Clowance Manor, near Praze-an-Beeble in Cornwall. The family held extensive lands in Devon and Cornwall. In 1322 a William Bathe leased out the lands of Bathe, in North Tawton and may be the same individual.
Confusion reigns when we consider the following:
The "Inquisitions and Post Mortems" of the Court of Chancery: Walter Bathon died in 1275 and is described as holding East Raddon, but there is no mention of Colebrooke, nor of him as sheriff. Walter of East Raddon held, in whole or in part, other lands and properties located in Devon, which are listed in the previous "Medieval Connections" page. Mr. Henry Summerson confirms that this Walter held many of the same lands as Walter of Colebrooke. Based on this he wrote that they were probably father and son. His Inquest Post Mortem is also linked through the home page. His mother’s name is given as Isabel who at the time was in "free marriage" to Joel de Buketon. Another indication that Walter may not have been very old at the time of his death is that he left a five year old heir, Augustine and perhaps, according to another source, a younger son, Walter. As a Walter de Bathe is given as sheriff in 1290 (above), he is unlikely to have been the same individual as he would have been no older than 19 at the time. However, there is another strong indication that this man is closely related to, one of the Walter's of Colebrooke. His grandaughter, Margaret, who appears further in this narrative, married Sir Andrew de Metsted and it was Andrew de Metsted who succeeded to the lordship of Colebrooke! Furthermore, amongst the shields ascribed to Margaret de Bathe is the Ermine, a bend gules, ascribed to the Bathes of Colebrooke!
Medieval families are known to have named successive children with the same first name in the certainty that one would die, given the high mortality rates. Is it possible that in this case both survived and so the cause of this confusion?
Henry III died in 1272 leaving the throne in the more capable hands of his son Edward I. Probably the best known of the English medieval kings, he certainly had some interesting contradictory personality traits. He broke down on hearing of his father’s death. One of his retinue was surprised, because he never wept over the death of any of his children (he was to lose 16 in infancy). "One can always replace a child", said the king "One cannot replace so good a father".
Whether Edward recognized the strategic imperative of controlling the entire shoreline of the British Isles, or simply desired to increase his holdings, he now set about to achieve both. He first turned his attention on Wales. Wales was a thorn in the "English" side from before the coming of William the Conqueror. Successive kings had tried to place this principality in a yoke, but all had met with fierce and effective resistance. The lords of the Welsh Marches had been put in place to serve as a first line of defense against Welsh incursions and raids and as a front line in attack. Edward succeeded in dividing the loyalties of the Welsh lords in order to weaken the defensive capabilities of Llewelyn ap Griffith, their high prince. Perhaps to provoke him, Edward had Llewelyn’s fiancé kidnapped and held until the groom paid homage to him as his overlord. The lady by the way was the daughter of Simon de Montfort. Further incursions and provocations by the Marcher Lords caused the final dénouement. Llewelyn raised his standard against Edward and though initially successful, eventually succumbed to the overwhelming might of the English king. Llewelyn was ambushed and killed in 1283. His head was struck off and sent to Edward.
Edward I built several magnificent castles at strategic points throughout Wales in order to subdue the inhabitants. With these castles came towns, peopled by his "English" subjects. It can be speculated that the presence of Bath families in Wales may date from these events, but we’ll remind the reader that it is not clear if their name originated from the lands of Bathe , the town of Bathe, or indeed from some other place, or perhaps occupation.
Edward now turned to Scotland. Successive Kings of the Scots had done homage to "English" monarchs for the lands they held in their kingdoms. Edward used this as a pretext to claim suzerainty over Scotland. In 1284, Alexander of Scotland and his heir, an infant granddaughter, died. Several candidates claimed the throne and made the error of appealing to Edward to mediate the dispute. Edward turned this to his advantage and rather than mediate, chose as his vassal king, John Balliol, a weak and ineffective man. As with Llewelyn, he then began to insult and provoke John Balliol, as well as dividing the loyalties of his barons. The tactics eventually had the desired effect and proclaiming Scotland as his fief, Edward raised an army and crossed the border with it in 1296.
The town of Berwick was the first to meet the king’s wrath. The townspeople lined the walls and jeered at Edward’s army, who quickly broke through their defenses and began a massacre of the civilian population. Men, women and children were put to death. This went on until Edward, riding through the carnage, saw a young child holding the lifeless hand of its mother and called, "Laissez". The reader should note, that the primary language of the English medieval kings, as well as most of the upper classes, was French. This continued up until the reign of Edward IV (1461 – 1483).
Having taken the example the other Scottish towns quickly fell. Edward brought his army and laid siege to Edinburgh and from there went on to accept the surrender of Sterling in June of 1296. It is there and at that time that having conquered Scotland, Edward began to release his men from their feudal obligations. An Augustine de Bathe was given leave to depart the king’s host.
Augustine de Bathe was the eldest son and heir of Sir Walter de Bathe, Lord of East Raddon. According to Joseph Holland’s "collection of Arms" from 1579 his seal was: Quarterly or and gules four escallops counterchanged. Escallops were the badge of the pilgrims to the shrine of St. Joseph de Compostola, in Spain and appear on the arms of some clergy. They were also indicative of a crusader or, as perhaps in this case, a family which claimed a crusader ancestor. In all probability he participated in Edward’s invasion of Scotland and it is he who was discharged in June of 1296 at Sterling. Little else is known regarding his life other than that he had no sons and therefore left his estate to two daughters, Margaret and Elinor.
Margaret, married firstly Sir Andrew de Metstead (Medsted) who appears, from Holland, to have adopted the arms of his father-in-law, and by him had a single daughter, Elinor. Secondly, she married Richard Bykelake, but no children of this marriage have been identified. Her daughter Elinor was apparently the sole heiress and married John Holland, bringing much of the Bath family holdings to that family. Thusly, in 1588 Andrew Holland of Weare has amongst his quarterings the "Quarterly or and gules, four escallops counterchanged" of the Metstede family and curiously "Sable, three bendlets argent", which is claimed as a Baa/Bathe shield. This could only have come through his ancestral grandmother Elinor and could therefore only have come from her grandfather Augustine, which is a direct contradiction of Joseph Holland’s claim.
It is claimed that some other members of the same Holland family were the stepbrothers of Richard II (1377 – 1399). Richard made one of them, another John Holland, Duke of Exeter, but this rank seems to have gone to his head. In a fit of pique he stabbed to death a messenger sent to mediate a dispute between himself and another lord. He went unpunished, continued his crimes and was eventually beheaded by Henry IV (1399 – 1413) for taking part in a conspiracy.
In 1343, Lady Margaret, daughter of Augustine de Batonia and widow of Sir Andrew de Metstead, granted the manor of Shockerwick in Ford with successive remainders in fee tail (a sort of trust for minors) to her three sons, Walter, Augustine and Thomas de Batonia. In 1351, she quitclaimed all her lands in Ford, Shockerwick and Batheaston, presumably to her heirs. By inference, since Sir Andrew’s sole heir was a daughter the three boys were her bastard sons. Given the nature of the society at that time, it is highly unusual that a rich heiress would be permitted to carry on a long-term non-marital relationship let alone name her bastards after family members. Older widows in her thirties were not pressured into remarriage, but permission to do so was required from their liege lord for those who held substantial lands and position. It may be that these were the infant sons of Sir Andrew de Metstead, described in this legal document as being of the district of Bath and child mortality being what it was their sister Elinor survived them. We are open to other alternate suggestions.
It is clear from this and other evidences, that the preceding Walter de Bathes, back to the time of Walter de Baa, had more than just one son apiece. Only the eldest would come into any property or be likely to be involved in situations in which his name would be recorded in ancient registers. Therefore they are mostly unknown to us. However, we do have one record, which clearly makes the point. On the 7th, September 1322, William Bathe leased out to Sir Robert de Tawetone and Gilbert, son of Alesander de la Nywelonde, the lands at Bathe in the manor of Chepyng Taweton. The rent was four pounds sterling and for the term of their lives. This property was none other than the family seat, Bathe house, located near North Tawton, Devon. We don’t know if William held the lands in his own right or signed the lease as a representative of the family. Bathe manor is claimed to have passed to the Holland family with the rest of Margaret’s property. However, it’s interesting to note that William no longer employed the "de" before his surname.
Elinor, the second daughter of Augustine de Bathe, married Walter de Horton. They held a portion of the manor of Sheepwash from her sister Margaret and passed it on to their daughter Melior. She in turn brought it to her husband’s family of Thorn.
Thomas de Baa/Bathe (Arms: Gules, a chevron between three roundels argent; according to Tristram Risdon.) Is claimed as the son of Walter, son of Walter de Bathe of East Raddon. Thomas lost a lawsuit against his cousin Elinor, the wife of John Holland, concerning the manor of Sheepwash, in 1351. A reading of the original Latin transcript of the case informs us that Thomas came to court "surrounded by henchmen", whether to protect himself from the Hollands or to intimidate the jury we can only guess. Unlike modern times juries were chosen for their knowledge of the case and they would have included his neighbours and presumably ex-friends. Thomas lost anyway, but according to Sir William Pole, Elinor later granted the manor to Thomas’s wife Jone (Joan) for the term of her life. There is left the impression that they had nothing else to live on. One can almost sympathize with Thomas. He saw his family’s wealth and position lost to other families for lack of a male heir and tried to recover some of what had been lost.
Note: Risdon describes him as "Lord of Sheepwash manor and land" "9 Edw. II" (1316), which if correct indicates he’d held the property for 35 years before being brought to court and that his uncle Augustine was dead by this time. The former being rather doubtful and requires some investigation. Thomas is listed in the Lay Subsidy of 1332 as holding Sheepwash. Risdon also says he held Bucland, Hele Sachville, Stocley and Ayleslande (Aylesbeare), none of which are mentioned in his grandfather’s post mortem and may indicate that he was not penniless after all.
Note: Reginald de Bathe appears in the Devon Lay Subsidy of 1332 in Canonsleigh and a John Bathe in East Budleigh. Younger sons or former residents of Bath??
Back in 1296, Edward I was satisfied that he had truly conquered and subjugated the Scots. Their king was now his prisoner and had been forced to abdicate the throne. However, he was disabused of this belief by one William Wallace. Wallace was ridiculously portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film "Braveheart". Highlanders wore kilts, and the ancient Britons who fought Julius Ceasar painted their faces with blue wode. Wallace was neither a Highlander, nor a Briton and according to some authorities may have been Welsh. In fact the Highlanders did not become involved in this war until years later. Wallace fell upon the English forces at Sterling in 1297 and those that were not killed were quickly put to flight. In 1298 Edward I came back from France and with an army, composed in part of the famous Welsh bowmen, eventually brought Wallace to battle at Falkirk. In a battle that was to presage English military tactics for the next century Edward’s bowmen destroyed Wallace’s small army. Wallace escaped only to be captured and hung, drawn and quartered as a traitor in 1305. However, Wallace’s defeat did not put an end to the fighting. Year after year, Edward summoned his knights and brought them north to fight the ever-elusive Scots rebels. The Normans had not only sent offshoots into Ireland in 1169, they had also spread north into Scotland and in 1306 one of their descendants, Robert de Brus (the Bruce) now made his claim for the throne. Infuriated and despite his great age, Edward came north again with an army, but he died on route of dysentery in 1307, leaving the crown to his dissolute son Edward II.
As mentioned previously, John de Bathonia, the son of Sir Henry de Bathe, was summoned as one of these knights in 1300 and again in 1301. As well in 1301, Sir Walter de Bathonia was called from Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire to serve against the Scots. This Walter had his coat of arms recorded in the parliamentary rolls of C. 1310 as: Gules, a chevron argent between three plates, making him a certain relative of both Thomas de Baa of Sheepwash (above) and Osbert de Bathon of Somerset (below). In 1303 and again in 1307, this Walter served as a commissioner for Derbyshire. In 1309 and 1314 he was a justice in Bedfordshire and in 1316 is noted as a Lord of Roxton (Rokesdon), in that same county. This manor of Trailly he held by knight service from 1284 to 1316, in right of his wife Anna (Anne). Interestingly, in 1313 he was recorded, or signed as a witness, to the charter for Woburn Abbey as Walter de Baa. There are as yet no indications that he was one of the Walter Bathons, sheriffs of Devon in 1290 and 1324, though this should be seen as a possibility. He is also ascribed with the arms Gules, a chevron between three mullets argent AND the same with pierced mullets (the roundels of a spur).
Robert de Baa of Huntingdonshire is given the arms (1391): a chevron between three pierced mullets and is therefore should be considered an heir to the above Sir Walter.
Sir Nicholas de Bathonia was summoned to serve against the Scots in 1296 and 1298. He was recorded as a knight of the shire of Gloucester in 1307 and a lord of Ley with lands at Westbury and Northwode, all in the same county. He was charged, but acquitted on disorder charges in 1311. He died in 1326, leaving two co heiresses, Aline and Anne. However, he is probably the same man recorded in the St. George’s Roll of the latter part of the thirteenth-century, as Nicoll Bassett, whose arms were : Barry undy of six argent and gules, a label or. The clerk had originally recorded his name as D’Bape, this being another variation of Bathe, but this was crossed out and Bassett written in its place. Despite holding manors and lands in Gloucester and deriving income and sustenance from them, he may not have lived there. If L’Estrange’s Devon study of the 1332 subsidy rolls holds true for this period, only some 50 –60 percent of the population carried a family surname. The clerk who recorded the names may not have known Nicoll’s surname and therefore used his town of residence, afterwards correcting his error. This was done on most medieval legal documents even when the surname was known and recorded as well, a formula which survives to this day on marriage certificates. Whether these applied names were passed on to succeeding generations is up to the reader to decide and should strike a cautionary note, that some of the men recorded herein may fall into this category.
Thus we have Sir Alan de Bath, who signed a close roll document in 1293 and William de Bathe, who was treasurer of Lincoln church and a prebend of Norton in 1317. Prebends and treasurers could be both secular or laypersons. William may have used the name de Bathe to show he was trained at a religious house in Bath, Somerset.
Back in 1136, the Bishop of Bath and Wells decided to redress some of the inequities in the holding of prebends belonging to his church at Wedmore, Somerset. In return for relinquishing his claim to the estates rightfully belonging to the church, Reginald, grandson of John of Tours and precentor of the church was given a prebend in another location. However, this did not sit well with his nephews who in 1164 were compensated for their loss with the sum of 70 marks to be shared amongst them. Amongst the recipients was Osbert de Bathonia.
Over a century later in 1283, Sir Osbert de Bathonia was investigated by a commission regarding a homicide. He held Loxton Manor, Somerset that passed to his daughter and heir Elizabeth, wife of William de Weyland, upon his death in Jan.1296. According to Risdon, Sir Osbert also held Spekeford (Sparkford) and that his arms were: Gules, a chevron between three annulets argent, which is so close to the Baa/Bathon/Bathe arms held by Thomas in Devon that it is clear that he was a relative. We cannot tell if he was a descendant of Osbert de Bathonia of Wedmore, which is not far from Loxton, as he may have been a resident of the town of Bath and so identified on the 1164 document. Osbert de Bathonia also held Radwell, near South Petherton, Somerset which also passed to his daughter Elizabeth. This property, now known as Rodwell Farm had been held by the Bathonia family for quite some time prior to Osbert's succession. Reynold de Bathonia is first mentioned in 1212. Either he or his son (also named Reynold) died in 1254 leaving Radwell to a minor son again named Reynold. By 1283 Radwell passed to Sir Osbert, but the relationship is unclear as there was another Osbert de Bathonia holding land nearby at Hassockmoor in 1232. Of importance significance is the claim of Thomas Gerrard in his 1633 "Survey of Somerset" that a coat of arms held by these men was Or, a chevron engrailed between three lions heads erased sable. This is very close to the shield claimed by Edward Henry Bath (1905) as belonging to his antecedents. Unfortunately no evidence has yet appeared to support Edward Henry's claim and without it this link can only remain as a possibility.
During the same period lived Sir Fulk de Bathonia a justice itinerant between 1272 and 1285. His name is also variously recorded as Baa and Ba. In 1286, he is mentioned as the overlord of Brendhall Manor in Essex. As an overlord he may have had only one or two men holding land from him and one such is William de Monte Caniso, of Edwardstown, both surname and place of residence being recorded in a grant dated 1290. In Lincolnshire 1301, Fulk witnessed the charter of Sir Simon de Veer, of Goxhill. His son, yet another John de Bathonia, or perhaps the same as above, was in debt for £100 in Yorkshire in 1288. The PRO catalogue contains an entry stating that John granted to Fineshade Priory a messuage and land at Harringworth, Northhamptonshire. Circumstantial evidence may lead a researcher to suspect that we have in Fulk a younger son of Sir Henry de Bathe, the target of Henry III’s wrath. Fulk may have been named after Henry’s defender and probable relation Fulk Bassett, he is located in the eastern shires where Henry is known to have held lands, he followed the same career, was of the appropriate age and named his son John, perhaps after his brother. C.A.F. Meekings was of the same opinion. All of the men mentioned in this account would have had coats of arms and most would have used seals showing a form of these arms. The arms, by this time, were passed down from father to son and only if they can be found and verified might we possibly prove family associations.
Edward II (1307 – 1327) was unfortunately nothing like his father. Willful, stubborn, decadent and effeminate, these characteristics combined would prove fatal for himself and many of his subjects. He broke his word to his dying father and did not lead the army to Scotland in 1307. Instead he spent the next years indulging himself and refused to recognize Scotland’s independence. Meanwhile Robert the Bruce consolidated his hold on the Scottish throne and led wasting forays into the northern counties of England. By 1314, the lords and barons had had enough and forced Edward II to take an army into Scotland and finish what his father had begun. At Bannockburn, Edward suffered perhaps the greatest defeat ever to befall an English army. His ineptitude and scorn for the Scots led him to place his army in an extremely disadvantageous position, from which even his bowmen could not extricate him. The Scots, led by Bruce, fell upon the English army, wiped out the bowmen and decimated the rest. Edward II fled for his life pursued by Bruce’s able lieutenant James, "The Black Douglas".
All hope of conquering Scotland was lost, but Edward still refused to recognize Robert as king, so the pillaging and killing in the north continued as each successive armistice ended. Robert’s brother Edward was invited to become High King of Ireland and led his combined Scottish/Irish forces in several battles against the Norman/Anglo-Irish men of the Pale, culminating in the taking of Dublin. No doubt, the ancestors of our redoubtable Irish namesakes crossed swords and broke lances in defense of their lands. Edward quickly made himself abhorrent to the Irish, who saw him as little better than their previous Norman overlords. Robert the Bruce him self, brought an army to Ireland to teach them their place and to maintain pressure on the English king. However, Robert soon after returned to his attacks on the English counties and after his brother was killed in battle, gave up on the Irish venture.
In 1327 Edward II of England was deposed in favour of his fifteen-year-old son, by his wife and her lover Roger Mortimer. He was shortly after undoubtedly murdered by them; it is claimed by shoving a red-hot poker up his anus. Edward III (1327 – 1377), soon after recognized Robert as King of the Scots and the long Scottish war of independence came to an end, at least for the time being. Edward turned his attentions to France.
In 1337, the French king died leaving no heir and Edward, who still held much of western France, claimed the throne by right of descent. His was actually the stronger claim, but the French nobles chose another and the Hundred Years War commenced. In 1346, Edward led his armies through much of Normandy, burning and pillaging as they went. It was his intention to regain the lands lost by King John in 1204. The French king followed with a vastly superior force and brought Edward to battle at Crécy. The French chivalry were simply slaughtered, first by the bowmen and then by the foot soldiers pushing daggers through their forced open visors. The loss so demoralized the French, that it took until 1453 to rid France of the English presence.
The first half of the 14th century saw a steady economic decline and a reduction in the population. Several bad harvests caused widespread famine and contributed to both. The population had reached a peak by 1300 of somewhere between 4.2 and 5 million people, declined by 1348 to 3.7 to 4.5 million, but stood at an estimated 2.5 million by the time of the poll tax returns in 1377. 1348 had seen the first visitation of the plague in England, beginning in the western counties. Bubonic plague, carried by rat fleas, together with airborne Pneumonic bacteria, wiped out not less than 30 percent of the entire population. The vagaries of the disease had a patchwork effect with one village being totally devastated whilst its near neighbour escaping almost unscathed. The Anglo-Norman Pale in Ireland was especially hard hit, but accounts claim a much lesser toll amongst the native Irish. Reoccurrences appeared throughout the middle ages and into the reign of Charles II (1649 – 1689). The death toll was much higher in urban than rural areas, especially port towns like London. Those that could and were in time fled to their country properties and suffered less. The depopulation hastened the collapse of the feudal system and of most of the manors that formed its basis. There were not enough villeins left to work the manor lands. Many had fled to find better employment in the towns, or elsewhere and could no longer be held to the land, though laws were enacted to stop them. The cash strapped owners eventually broke up their estates and sold them off, often to former serfs, or more significantly turned to raising sheep.
The continental demand for English wool was steadily increasing throughout the 14th & 15th centuries. As wages and labour shortages increased landholders began enclosing their property, sometimes ejecting what villeins remained and brought in sheep, which were less labour intensive and more profitable. Thousands of tiny villages and hamlets disappeared as land was given over to pasturage.
As mentioned above, there is a strong similarity between the shields claimed for the Bathonias of Radwell (13th C.) and that claimed for the Baths of Cornwall (16th C). The difference being that the Radwell three black lions' heads were replaced by wolves' heads. It may be that the Radwell descendants changed the arms to something more relevant to the way they gained their livelihood, wolves being so closely associated with sheep in the popular mind. As the owners of large flocks they had an ever increasing need for pasturage and this may also explain how their descendants ended up on Cornwall's Bodmin Moor.
The plagues also killed off many of the educated people as they were more often than not the doctors and spiritual comforters of the sick, as well as inhabitants of the heavily inflicted towns. This in turn led to a growing illiteracy in England and fewer chronicles and other records were kept after this period.
In 1377, Edward III died and his son, "The Black Prince" having predeceased him, the crown went to Richard II (1377 – 1399). Richard, who was mentioned previously in relation with the Holland family, was deposed and probably murdered by Henry IV (1399 – 1413).
By 1385, the schools had begun to teach and use an early form of English instead of French, apparently making it much easier on the students. This may have come as a result of a growing English "nationalism", if one can call it that as it was solely based on hatred of the French. This also may have caused the dropping of the prefix "de" from most surnames. However, French was still to dominate other institutions for some generations to come.
The mayor of Bristol in 1369 and 1371 was John Bathe. He, or his son held property on Redcliffe Street in that town between 1395 and 1405. Also in Bristol a William Bath leased tenements at nos. 16 & 17 Peter Street in 1365.
In Sussex 1395, William Bathe represented Roger Glendale in a suit over four acres of land in Yaxley, Suffolk.
And, back in 1340, Adam Bathe married Christian, the daughter of Lord Tredinnick. The Cornwall visitations further records that they had one known son Thomas. There are several locations named Tredinnick in Cornwall. Of particular interest is the presence of a Tredinnick Manor in St Mabyn, near Bodmin. Assuming Adam and his son Thomas were resident in this area, it would place them on the Bodmin Moor some two hundred years prior to our first clear records of Bath and Bathe families in this region of Cornwall.
In the "Etymology of Cornish Surnames" (1870), Richard Steven Charnock writes that "Bath when of Cornish origin may come from bedh, beth; a grave". G. Pawley White in his "Handbook of Cornish Surnames" gives "bath; a boar, or possibly from bagh; a nook or corner, a place where streams, ridges and cracks meet". Though these may indicate a Cornish origin for some Bath families, they do not appear to account for the original spelling of Bathe, which was recorded in Cornwall as early as 1525 and is almost certainly the French spelling of the name.
There is also a village called Bathpool in northern Cornwall. However, according to the "Dictionary of Cornish Placenames" (Oliver Pade, 1988) the earliest mention of Bathpool is recorded in 1474 (Bathpole) and is probably an English rather than a Cornish name. By this time fixed surnames were universal and it's doubtful Cornish families would have adopted a new name from this village. A Richard Bath of St Kew parish is mentioned in 1482.
Of course there are numerous other possible sources for this surname, above all the town and region of Bath, Somerset, none of which should be completely discounted. Nor can the families' claims be disproved that an early medieval family took its name from land it held in Devon and over the proceeding generations spread branches through many of the counties of England. Furthermore, given some 800 years of procreation, it is possible that this family may be the source for most, if not all, of the current English and Irish holders of name.
In 1536 English parishes began keeping rudimentary records of births, deaths and marriages and from that time it is possible to establish clear lineages.
Henry (Harry) Bathe appears on the muster roll of St Breward, Cornwall in 1569. Though an able pike man he carried a sword and dagger, the arms of a gentleman. He was to become the father of seven sons and the progenitor of many Cornish Bath branches whose descendants spread themselves over most of the English-speaking world.
Some of Harry Bathe's descendants claimed their roots as beginning with the de Bathe/Bathonia family of Bathe House and as a similar claim was made by the Irish family of the same name, efforts are being made to find connecting links. We are still looking and no clear evidence has come to light. This account is intended as a current status of the information we have and some of the surmises that can be made from it.
It is also recognized that as these Cornish and Irish Bath/Bathe and de Bathe families can make these claims, so too can virtually any English family bearing the same surnames. Therefore, this work is intended to be shared by all and as a cordial invitation to join in investigating the questions raised.
Of course, we could all take DNA tests to identify a common male ancestor, but where would be the fun in that? Also with mortality rates being what they were adoption was probably a frequent occurrence, thereby rendering DNA evidence questionable.
A DNA Project has nevertheless begun!
Contacts Joanna Dalton, née Bath
(Who may not subscribe to all the theories and postulations presented in this document)
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