Rediscovering a lost medieval English family

My first proof copy of Volume OneIn the early 1400s, everyone in England knew the name Rochford. Family members were among the leading knights of the realm.

Yet today, all that survives are a few old place names, some muddled local histories, and very little else. The story of this family has been a mystery for half a millennium.

My aim is to unravel that mystery. Over the years I have collected thousands of pieces of primary evidence about the Rochfords. I have used these to reconstruct their story, from the 1100s until their final days in the time of Henry VIII. And on this site, I am sharing it all.

Rochford of Fenne and Stoke Rochford, Volume One coverVolume One: The Origins Rise and Fall of an English Family, 1066-1550

Tells the story of the Rochfords of Fenne and Stoke Rochford through biographies of eighteen principal family members.

More info & PDF download
Read online

Rochford of Fenne and Stoke Rochford - Volume Two - Source Material - draft coverVolume Two:
Source Material

A companion volume of records, citations, working notes, etc., for researchers. Contains all the citations for Volume One, 1200+ abstracts and transcripts, and commentary on their interpretation.

More info & PDF download

Thumbnail of the genealogical chart of the Rochfords of Fenne and Stoke RochfordCharts & Maps

One huge genealogical chart, or a number of smaller ones, showing thirteen generations of the family from the 1100s to the 1500s, with coats of arms and illustrations. Also a few maps from the book showing various places associated with the Rochfords.

Browse and download charts and maps

The earliest known likeness of a Rochford

Effigies of Sir Ralph de Rochford of Walpole and his wife Matilda
Effigies of Sir Ralph de Rochford of Walpole, who died about 1391, and his wife Matilda, who died in 1369.

There is not much to see in the north chapel of the church of St Peter in Walpole today, but in the 1700s it was full of stained glass and a few monuments in memory of the Rochfords who were lords of one of the manors in that town in the 1300s and 1400s. Fortunately, details of these were captured by the Norfolk historians Francis Blomefield and Charles Parkin.

The first of the Rochfords to be based permanently at Walpole was Sir Ralph, the second son of Sir Sayer de Rochford of Fenne. He seems to have been based there from about 1350, and it was during his time that much of the church was rebuilt after a catastrophic flood in 1337. It is very likely that Ralph was one of the principal benefactors to the reconstruction project.

Continue reading The earliest known likeness of a Rochford

Rochford of Rochford and Berden

There are several places in England and France that gave their names to families called Rochford. One of these is the village (or town, as it is now) of Rochford near the south coast of Essex. The family who owned the principal manor in this village took their name from it, and they appear to have been the progenitors of most other families in England called Rochford.

In this article, I look at the early history of this family.

Continue reading Rochford of Rochford and Berden

Rochford of Braintree and Bocking

In the 1400s, there was a family of Rochfords connected with the town of Braintree in Essex. I have no idea where they originated from. One would guess they were cousins of the Rochfords of Rochford and Berden in Essex – a tremendously wealthy family who were in the area from at least the mid 1100s. But what little evidence I have found suggests that the Rochfords of Braintree may have been more closely related to the Rochfords of Fenne.

This article looks at the hazy history of these mysterious individuals.

Continue reading Rochford of Braintree and Bocking

Which Rochford married a daughter of Sir Hugh Hastings? Two important documents from the Hastings of Gressenhall archives

Most accounts of the Rochfords refer to a marriage at some point between a Rochford male and a Hastings female. Two documents from Norfolk Record Office show that there was such a marriage, but not between the individuals most scholars have claimed.

This article compares the traditional account, misleading abstracts from Norfolk Record Office, and the evidence of the original documents themselves – and shows why research from primary sources is so vital.

Continue reading Which Rochford married a daughter of Sir Hugh Hastings? Two important documents from the Hastings of Gressenhall archives

Rochford estates: Clipston on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire

From the late 1100s to the late 1200s, the Rochfords of Fenne also had an estate at Clipston on the Wolds in Nottinghamshire.

The Victoria County History site reports that work is in progress on vol 3 of its history for the county, and that Clipston will be covered. I shared with the following account of the Rochfords’ estates in the village, since it appears from the latest draft text that the author has not yet discovered this.

Continue reading Rochford estates: Clipston on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire

Image Library now online

Rochford of Fenne and Stoke Rochford, Volume One contains about sixty illustrations. These are now all available online in the new Image Library.

They include a large number of tombs and effigies, heraldic artefacts and coats of arms recreated from original records. They also include photos and engravings of places and buildings associated with the Rochfords, and a number of medieval illuminations illustrating events they were involved in.

Browse the Image Library here

Illumination: A medieval illuminator at work – Brother Rufillus Illuminating the Initial R, from The Lives of the Saints, c.1170-1200 (Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Geneva, Cod. 127, fol. 244)