« PreviousContinue »
The value of the manor of Cleeton, in which Skipsea lies, had fallen at Domesday.1
STAFFORD (Fig. 32).--The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that Ethelfleda of Mercia built the burh of Stafford ; and consequently we find that both in King Edward and King William's time Stafford was a burgus, or fortified town. Florence of Worcester, who is considered to have used a superior copy of the Chronicle as the foundation of his work, says that Ethelfleda built an arx on the north bank of the Sowe in 914. Arx, in our earlier chronicles, is often only a bombastic expression for a walled town, as, for example, when Ethelwerd says that Ethelfleda's body was buried in St Peter's porch in the arx of Gloucester. But the statement led many later writers, such as Camden, to imagine that Ethelfleda built a tower in the town of Stafford; and these imaginings have created such a tangled skein of mistake that we must bespeak our readers' patience while we attempt to unravel it.
Domesday Book only mentions Stafford Castle under the manor of Chebsey, a possession of Henry de Ferrers. Its words are: "To this manor belonged the land of Stafford, in which the king commanded a castle to be built, which is now destroyed." Ordericus also says that the king placed a castle at Stafford, on his return from his third visit to the north, in 1070. Now the language of Domesday appears to us to say very plainly that in the manorial rearrangement which followed the Conquest some land was taken out of the manor of Chebsey, which lies immediately to the south of the
1 D. B., i., 323b.
2 Ethelwerd, anno 910.
3 "Ipse Henricus tenet Cebbeseio. Ad hoc manerium pertinuit terra de Stadford, in qua rex precepit fieri castellum, quod modo est destructum." D. B., i., 249a.
'Apud Estafort alteram [munitionem] locavit." Ord. Vit., p. 199.
borough of Stafford, to furnish a site for a royal castle.1 It is exactly in this position that we now find a large oblong motte, similar to the other mottes of the Conquest, and having the usual bailey attached to it. It lies about a mile and a half south-west of the town, near the main road leading into Shropshire.
The position was an important one, as the castles of Staffordshire formed a second line of defence against the North Welsh, as well as a check to the great palatinate earls of Shropshire. The motte itself stood on high ground, commanding a view of twenty or thirty miles round, and both Tutbury and Caus castles could be seen from it. Between it and the town lies a stretch of flat ground which has evidently been a swamp formerly, and which explains the distance of the castle from the town; while the fact that it lies to the south of the Sowe shows that it has no connection with Ethelfleda's work. There is no dispute that this motte was the site of the later baronial castle of Stafford, the castle besieged and taken in the Civil War; the point we have to prove is that it was also the castle of Domesday Book.3
1 It should be said that Mr Eyton interprets the passage differently, and takes it to mean that the castle was built on land in the borough of Stafford belonging to the manor of Chebsey. But he himself says that "the site of Stafford Castle, within the liberties, though not within the borough of Stafford, would suggest a royal foundation"; and he believes this castle (the one on the motte) to have been the one garrisoned by Henry I. and made a residence by Henry II. Domesday Studies, p. 21.
2 Salt. Arch. Soc. Trans., vol. viii., "The Manor of Castre or Stafford," by Mr Mazzinghi, a paper abounding in valuable information, to which the present writer is greatly indebted.
3 In the addenda to Mr Eyton's Domesday of Staffordshire (p. 135) the learned editor says there are two Stafford castles mentioned in Domesday, in two different hundreds. We have carefully searched through the whole Stafford account, and except at Burton and Tutbury, there is no other castle mentioned in Staffordshire but this one at Chebsey.
If the first castle of Stafford was of earth and wood, like most of William's castles, there would be nothing wonderful in its having many destructions and many resurrections. This castle was clearly a royal castle, from the language of Domesday Book. As a royal castle it would be committed to the custody of the sheriff, who appears to have been Robert de Stafford,' ancestor of the later barons of Stafford, and brother of Ralph de Todeni, one of the great nobles of the Conquest. Ralph joined the party of Robert Curthose against Henry I. in 1101, and it is conjectured that his brother Robert was involved in the same rebellion, for in that year we find the castle held for the king by William Pantolf, a trusty companion of the Conqueror. It is very unlikely that this second castle of Stafford was on a different site from the one which had been destroyed; and an ingenious conjecture of Mr Mazzinghi's helps us to identify it with the castle on the motte. In that castle, when it again emerges into light in the reign of Henry II., we find a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, which Robert de Stafford gives to the abbey of Stone, and the king confirms the gift. The worship of St Nicholas came greatly into fashion after the translation of his remains from Asia Minor to Bari, in Italy, in 1087. William Pantolf visited the shrine at Bari, got possession of some of the relics of St Nicholas, and with great reverence deposited them in his own church of Noron, in Normandy. It is therefore extremely probable that Pantolf founded the chapel of St Nicholas in Stafford ·
1 Dugdale conjectures that Robert was sheriff of Staffordshire. He had large estates round the town of Stafford. Eyton, Staffordshire, p. 61. 2 Mazzinghi, Salt Arch. Soc. Trans., viii., 6; Eyton, Domesday Studies, p. 20.
3 Monasticon, vi., 223: "Ecclesiam S. Nicholai in castello de Stafford." 4 Ordericus, vii., 12. See also vii., 13, p. 220 (ed. Prévost).