Rochford of Rochford and Berden, 1140-1309

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 were lords of the manor in this village took their name from it, and made it their primary base. They appear to have been the progenitors of most other families in England called Rochford too.

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

Waleran of Rochford, living 1140s

The earliest record of a Rochford in England dates from between 1145 and 1149. The name Waleran de Rochford, i.e. of Rochford, appears in a charter in which the East Anglian lord John de Cheney gave land in the villages of East and West Rudham in Norfolk to a priory that his uncle had founded there. Cheney declared that the purpose of his gift was:

“for the soul of my grandfather Ralph de Cheney and his wife, and the soul of my father and my mother, and William de Cheney my uncle, and Roger and their sisters, and Waleran de Rochford, and all my forebears…”[1]

This Waleran of Rochford sounds like he was an uncle or grandfather of Cheney’s. He must have lived in the early 1100s, possibly even in the time of the Conqueror. Unfortunately this is all that history records of him, so we cannot be sure if he was from Rochford in Essex, if he was lord of that vill, and if he was the progenitor of the later Rochfords who were lords of that vill. But all these things seem likely. The name Waleran would be popular in this family in later years, and the earliest certain ancestor of this family, Guy de Rochford, is known to have been close to the Say family, who were descended from John de Cheney through his daughter and heiress Alice.[2]

Guy I of Rochford, died about 1182-3

Guy de Rochford was a vassal of the hereditary Constable of England, Henry of Essex, until the latter lost a trial by combat and disappeared into a monastery in 1163.[3] Guy’s property at Rochford was two knight’s fees, and he had another knight’s fee at Berden in the northwest of Essex.[4] Thus he was of relatively high status among the landowners in the county, and he seems to have survived his lord’s fall from grace with his reputation and his estates intact.

Around 1162-1164 Guy witnessed a charter for the earl of Buckingham, Walter Giffard, to Nutley Priory.[5] In the Cartæ Baronum of 1166 Guy was reported to be in possession of three knight’s fees as Giffard’s vassal.[6] From this it sounds as if Giffard held Henry of Essex’s former properties as Guy’s overlord, but if so that would not be a permanent arrangement: in the 1200s, the Rochfords held Rochford and Berden held directly of the king.

In 1177, meanwhile, King Henry II fined Guy de Rochford ten marks for some infraction of the forest law in Essex. In April that year Guy witnessed a charter for Geoffrey de Say granting the church of Elsenham in Essex to Walden Abbey.[7] In future generations Guy’s heirs held property at Elsenham under the Says in addition their property at Rochford and Berden. Perhaps Guy already had it at this time.[8]

Guy was not the only Rochford in the area around this time. There was a “Robert de Rochesford”, who was a witness to two charters from Geoffrey de Say’s mother, Beatrix de Mandeville, to Walden Abbey – one confirming the already-mentioned gift of the church of Elsenham, the other regarding Staplewell marsh. Presumably Robert was related to Guy. Perhaps he was a younger brother, but it is not known for sure.[9] It is plausible that it was the same Robert de Rochford who, in 1170s, gave property in Stainby, Lincolnshire, to Lincoln Cathedral, and was also fined 6s 8d by the crown for some misdemeanor. If so, then perhaps he was the progenitor of the Rochfords of Fenne. But again, we cannot know for sure.[10]

Another likely family member was Simon de Rochford, who by 1189 had granted some property in Shoebury, on the Essex coast seven miles from Rochford, to Clerkenwell Priory in London.[11] Simon also held a large estate under the Percys at Wold Newton in Yorkshire, and his heirs (several of whom also took the name Waleran de Rochford) continued to hold family estates there and at Shoebury well into the 1300s.[12] Simon was already active in the 1150s, so it seems likely that he was a brother or cousin of Guy de Rochford.[13] I will write about his family, the Rochfords of Wold Newton and Shoebury, another time.

Guy II of Rochford, died by 1185

Guy I died around 1182 or 1183. The crown sold off his chattels for £16 and held on to his estates until his eldest son and heir, who was also called Guy, paid forty marks for his inheritance fee.[14] But within a few years, in 1185 at the latest, the younger Guy had died too, and his eldest son, John, who was still only sixteen years old, became a ward of the crown. In that year, the crown commissioned a survey of the estates of various widows and young heirs who held lands directly under the king. The surviving records of this survey report that Guy also had a younger son, who was just twelve years old, and a daughter aged fourteen – but neither of their names are given.[15]

John I of Rochford, died by 1230

John survived to claim his inheritance at Rochford and Berden around 1189-90,[16] and in 1194-5, 1196-7 and 1201-2 he paid scutage on another half a knight’s fee in Norfolk. It turns out that this was not Rochford family property: he held it in right of his wife Matilda. She was the young daughter of Thomas fitz Bernard and was already a widow, having previously been married to John de Bidun.[17] This Norfolk property appears to have been at Kirby Bedon and/or Stow Bedon, which were part of the Bidun family estates, and which Matilda held as her dower lands.[18] When she died in 1254 (at the impressive age of about 79 – she had been ten at the time of the 1185 survey of widows and orphans) these lands would revert to the heirs of her first husband.[19]

Returning to 1190 – around this time, John de Rochford made a grant to the Priory of St Radegund in Cambridge:

“… for the salvation of his soul and that of his wife Matilda and of the soul of his daughter Beatrix, who is buried there – that is, at the light before the altar of St Radegund.”[20]

The witnesses to this grant include William de Rochford, Geoffrey de Rochford and Eustace de Rochford. They were presumably John’s cousins, or perhaps one of them was John’s younger brother who was not named in the 1185 survey. By this time, Simon de Rochford of Shoebury and Wold Newton had already been succeeded by a son named William de Rochford, who was presumably the same as the witness to John’s grant of the same name.[21] Geoffrey de Rochford was a vassal of the FitzWalters with two knights fees in or near Essex.[22] Eustace de Rochford is less easy to pin down. But this trio – William, Geoffrey and Eustace de Rochford – appeared together frequently in transactions of the period relating to the villages of Manuden and Bollington in Essex, where the Wold Newton Rochfords acquired some property. Occasionally some of the three appear in other records with John de Rochford too.[23]

At some point before 1194, Philip de Tany granted to John some property in Berden that John’s father Guy de Rochford had held under Philip’s father Hamon de Tany in their time. This property formed part of the Earl of Essex William de Mandeville’s estates.[24] Around 1197 John de Rochford acquired a hide of land in Berden from Richard de Tany, rated at a quarter of a knight’s fee.[25] The Book of Fees confirms that in 1212 John still had the family’s whole knight’s fee in Berden held directly under the king as part of Henry of Essex’s old fiefdom.[26] Later records indicate that this and the property acquired from the Tanys were different, so presumably the latter was accounted for elsewhere in the 1212 survey.

By this time, a priory had been founded at Berden, presumably by John or one of his ancestors since they were the primary landowners in the village. In 1214, 1222 and 1267 the priory was granted permission to host a midsummer fair in the village, while it would receive more regular income from lands that the Rochfords and others granted to it over the years.[27]

Guy III of Rochford, 1230-1232

John I died by 1230, but the details of his heirs are a little unclear. According to records in the Fine Rolls, in 1230 his “son and heir” was under age and a ward of the notable baron Robert Aguillon. Unfortunately, the son’s name is not given.[28] Another entry in the Fine Rolls from 1232 records that Aguillon paid the king 100 marks “to have the wardship of the land and heir of Guy de Rochford”.[29] And then a record in the Book of Fees said to be from 1232-3, reports that in that year a John de Rochford had “3½ fees in Rocheford, Berden and Elsenham in Essex”.[30]

There are several possible interpretations of this data. The most likely seems to be that John de Rochford, who was born around 1169 and died before 1230 (when he would have been almost 60) was succeeded by a young son Guy III. Guy was probably born around, say, 1210, so he was still under age, i.e. under 21, in 1230 – hence he had become a ward of Robert Aguillon. But Guy died by 1232, and thus his own son and heir, who cannot have been more than a young child, also became a ward of Aguillon.

It is possible that this young heir was the John mentioned in the Book of Fees in 1232-3, but it is more likely that this was an out-of-date reference to the latest heir to the property old enough to own it. Such anachronisms are not uncommon in the Book of Fees records. Later records suggest the next heir to the estate also called Guy, and was born by 1228 – so presumably this was Guy III’s son.

Guy IV of Rochford, died 1274

The Book of Fees goes on to report that in 1244: [31]

“The whole vill of Berden is in the hands of Robert Aguillon in wardship, which he holds in chief of the honour of Rayleigh, and in which are contained two knight’s fees. He also holds a quarter of a knight’s fee there of the honour of Mandeville.”

So the young Guy IV was under age and in wardship then. But by 1248 Guy appears to have reached his majority, as the king granted him free warren – the right to hunt – on his lands at Rochford, Elsenham, and Berden in that year.[32] Guy must have been born between about 1223 and 1228.

Five years later, in 1253, the king granted Guy exemption for life from being put on assizes, juries or recognitions – a general inconvenience for knights with broader ambitions than county administration.[33] In 1257 the king granted him the right to hold a market on his manor at Rochford on Tuesdays, and an annual fair in Whitsun week. In 1264 the king confirmed the market grant, and he also granted Guy the right to have another fair in All Saints week.[34] These were valuable grants – markets and fairs were fantastic sources of income for local landowners, and could help a enable manor village to develop into flourishing market town, as Rochford did.

Around 1256, Guy de Rochford acquired some property in Coggeshall, further eastwards in Essex, from Geoffrey Doget and Beatrice his wife.[35] Around 1261, a “Guy de Rocheford of Hoo” resolved a dispute with Henry de Bretton over half a knight’s fee that Henry held under him at Coggeshall and which was part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s estates. Perhaps this Guy the same person; presumably he was living on the Hoo Peninsula across the Thames Estuary from Rochford.[36]

In 1271 Guy de Rochford acquired two carucates, perhaps 240 acres, of marshland on Foulness Island just to the east of Rochford, from John de Burgh, “to be held with all pertaining waters, sands, shores, wreck of sea, ways, paths, drifts, warrens and all other liberties, as freely as the donor or his ancestors held”. This was to be in exchange for 700 marks of silver and a manor Guy had in Kingsbury, Somerset. Guy was also to owe de Burgh the service of quarter of knight’s fee for the property.[37]

Guy de Rochford was still alive in February 1274, but died by September that year.[38] An inquisition post mortem reported that his property included: the manor of Rochford with the advowson of the church there and about 450 acres, including a marsh on Foulness island, held directly as a small barony of the king for two knight’s fees; the manor of Berden with the advowson of the church there and about 750 acres, held directly of the king for one knight’s fee; the manor of Elsenham with about 370 acres, held of Sir William de Say; three further marshes on Foulness worth £40 a year, held of Sir John de Burgh of the honour of Rayleigh; and a quarter of a knight’s fee in Coggeshall that was let to Lady Joan Braham.[39]

Guy left a widow, Margaret, and his heir was his nephew John, the son of his sister Maud or Matilda.

Margaret received her dower lands in September 1274, having taken an oath not to remarry without the king’s licence.[40] She was still alive around 1289 when she acquired a messuage, 88 acres and 12½d rent from Walter de Tany and his wife Isabel, to hold of them and the heirs of Isabel.[41] This is the last record of Margaret alive that I know of. By 25 April 1292 Margaret had evidently died, as it was proclaimed at the Court of Husting in London that “Margery de Rocheford, late wife of Guy de Rocheford, Knt” had bequeathed “all her houses in Smethefeud without Neugate to be sold for pious uses”.[42]

There was another Guy de Rochford, or more properly Rochefort in this case, who was prominent in England at the time of Guy IV – but he had no connection to the English family. He was a Poitevin, i.e. from Poitou in France, and he was one of Henry III’s inner circle of knights. He appears to have come over from France in the company of the king’s Lusignan half-brothers, and received land and offices in England, including the castellany of Colchester castle in Essex. He and his sons settled in England, and their descendants include the Rocheforts of Ireland[43], and perhaps the Rochfords of Dorset too – but not the Essex Rochfords.

It is easy to mix the two Guys up, especially given the flexibility of medieval spellings, the uncertainty of transcriptions by later scholars, and the fact that both had connections to Essex. But it is the Poitvein Rochefort who appears repeatedly throughout the Patent Rolls and other records of Henry III’s reign, usually in receipt of bountiful gifts, but also from time to time in the middle of an almighty political brawl. The English subject of this account rather fades into the background in comparison.

John II of Rochford, died 1309

Guy IV’s nephew and heir John took the name Rochford, although he was heir to the family through his mother rather than his father. It is not known who his father was. He was 22 years old when he succeeded his uncle Guy in 1274.[44] On 8 July that year the chancery instructed the escheator:[45]

“To deliver to John de Rocheford, nephew and heir of Guy de Rocheford, deceased, tenant in chief, the lands late of his uncle, he having done fealty; so that he do homage on the king’s coming to England.”

The next year, John settled on himself and his wife Mary and their heirs together a carucate (about 120 acres) of land in Elsenham. But Mary must have died, as by 1283-4 John had a new wife named Bertha and he settled on himself and her two lots of 26 acres of marsh in Rochford.[46]

By this time time, John was described as a knight. He came to an arrangement with Nicholas de Cokefield, Prior of Prittlewell, that he could put up his own private chapel, and employ his own private chaplain for his family, on land in Foulness that customarily paid tithes and profits to the priory.[47]

In 1289 Sir John petitioned parliament, “seeking respite from a demand for wreck of the sea until judgment is given in a plea of quo warranto against him.” Presumably some dispute had broken out over whether John had the right to the profits of wrecks found along his coastline in Foulness. Parliament agreed to postpone a fine of 52 marks until the matter was settled before the king.[48]

Sir John appears in the Close Rolls on a number of occasions connected with debts, mainly owed by him to William de Hamelton, the archdeacon of York. This debt seems to have increased from £55 in 1289 to £110 by November 1297, but by December 1297 he had got it down to just 50 marks, about £33.[49]

In November 1299 Sir John was recorded in possession of half a knight’s fee at “Berghes” in Essex, which he held of the barony of the late Richard Fitz John.[50] This is said to be the place that later became Westbarrow Hall, which is gone now, although its location can still be identified along the north boundary of Southend Airport just to the west of Rochford.[51]

Around this time, Sir John enfeoffed his eldest son Robert of the family property at Berden, and he began to involve Robert in family matters.[52] Later records suggest that Robert had reached the age of 21 around 1299, which would explain the timing.[53] In 1302 Sir John and his son were involved together in a deal with Sir Humphrey de Walden over Berden,[54] which was perhaps connected with a £19 debt John had to Walden in 1300.[55] Then around 1305 or 1306, Walden appears to have purchased half of the manor of Elsenham and the advowson of the church there from John Engayne and his wife Ellen. Perhaps Ellen was Sir John de Rochford’s by his first wife Mary, on whom he had settled property at Elsenham thirty years earlier. In any case, John put in a claim on the property in an attempt to block the deal as did his son Robert, but to no avail. The Rochfords would never hold this property again.[56]

In September 1304, meanwhile, Sir John and Robert had together witnessed a couple of charters for the local knight Sir Peter de Southchurch.[57] And around this time, John and Beatrice Doget completed a deal with Robert Doget and Alice his wife over some land in Rochford itself.[58]

These are the last records I have of Sir John alive. He was dead by August 1309, when an inquisition post mortem into his lands was carried out. It reported that John had held the manor of Rochford and the marsh at Foulness of the king in chief as of the barony of Rayleigh, for one knight’s fee, and that John’s son Robert, aged 30, was his heir. No mention was made of the family property at Berden, presumably because John had already passed this to his son, or Elsenham, which the Waldens now held.[59]

Details of John de Rochford’s heir, Robert, and his successors, will follow in a future update.


[1] A History of Coxford Priory, p331-2,; VCH Norfolk, v2,

[2] L. F. Salzman, ‘Sussex Domeday Tenants. IV. The family of Chesney of Cheyney’, Sussex Arch Soc, vol LXV,

[3] Pipe Rolls, pp16, 24,,

[4] The Red Book of the Exchequer, v2, pp 502, 595, 736,; and further detail comes 100-odd years later in an IPM for his descendant, another Guy de Rochefort, in 1273-4,

[5] Monasticon, v6.1, p278,; VCH Bucks, v1, pp377-380,

[6] The Black Book of the Exchequer, v1, p189,; The Red Book of the Exchequer, v1, p312,

[7] Pipe Rolls,,; Diana Greenway and Leslie Watkiss, The Book of the Foundation of Walden Monastery, p184, or

[8] The Red Book of the Exchequer, v2, p736,; CIPM, Guy de Rochefort 1273-4,

[9] Monasticon, v4, pp149-150,; Diana Greenway and Leslie Watkiss, The Book of the Foundation of Walden Monastery, p181,

[10] Registrum Antiquissimum, v7, p107,; Pipe Rolls 1175-1182,,,,

[11] Monasticon, v4, p85,

[12] For example, see Early Yorkshire Charters, v2, p483,; Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, p210,; Feet of Fines for Essex, v2, p52,

[13] Early Yorkshire Charters, v2, p407,; Pipe Rolls,

[14] Pipe Rolls, pp16, 24,,

[15] Rotuli de Dominabus…, p73, also intro page xlv, or

[16] Pipe Roll, p53,

[17] VCH Northants, v4, p29-39,; Farrer, Honours and Knights’ Fees, v1, p3,

[18] The Red Book of the Exchequer, v1, pp81, 115, 139, 140, 141,; Pipe Rolls,; Honours & Knights’ Fees, v2, pp3-4,

[19] VCH Northants, v4, p29-39,; Farrer, Honours and Knights’ Fees, v1, p3,; Calendarium Genealogicum: Henry II and Edward I, v1, p62,; IPM,

[20] Jesus College Archives, Records of the Priory of St Mary and St Radegund, GBR/2703/Nuns/Add. 68,

[21] Early Yorkshire Charters, v2, p484,

[22] Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, p20,

[23] Corpus Christi Cambridge, Corpus/CCCC09/24A/CCCC09/24A/C ( and Corpus/CCCC09/24A/CCCC09/24A/E ( (caution over the archivist’s dating of these documents, which appears to be 80-100 years late)

[24] TNA DL 27/2,

[25] Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, no 21,

[26] Book of Fees, v1, p123,

[27] ‘Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Berden’, in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London, 1907), pp. 143-144. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2017].

[28] FRH3,; Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turri … Henrico Tertio Rege, v1, p197,

[29] FRH3,; Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turri … Henrico Tertio Rege, v1, p233,

[30] Book of Fees, v2, p1463.

[31] Book of Fees, v2, pp1160 and 1161,

[32] Calendar of Charter Rolls, v1, p329,

[33] CPR,

[34] Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516, Essex,; Calendar of Charter Rolls, v1, p473,; Calendar of Charter Rolls, v2, p50,

[35] Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, p220,

[36] Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, p257,

[37] Feet of Fines for Essex, v1, p275,; Essex Record Office, D/DQ 91/1,; Calendar of Charter Rolls, v2, pp461-462,

[38] Close Rolls,, Close Rolls,

[39] IPM Guy de Rochefort, 2 Edw I,; Close Rolls,

[40] CFR, v1, p27,

[41] Feet of Fines for Essex, v2, EI no 469,

[42] ‘Wills: 21 Edward I (1292-3)’, in Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London: Part 1, 1258-1358, ed. R R Sharpe (London, 1889), pp. 108-110. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2017].

[43] Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland, 1252-1284, p17 and passim,

[44] IPM Guy de Rochefort, 2 Edw I,

[45] CFR, v1, p25,

[46] Feet of Fines for Essex, v2, EI no 44,; Feet of Fines for Essex, v2, EI no 221, 228,

[47] Essex Record Office, TS 483/1,, and T/A 509/1,

[48] ‘Original Documents: Edward I Parliaments, Roll 2’, in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge, 2005), British History Online, [accessed 24 June 2017].

[49] Close Rolls, 1279,, 1289,, 1291,, 1297,, 1297,

[50] CCR,; IPM, Richard son of John,

[51] The Historical Gazetteer of England’s Place-Names, Eastwood, Westbarrow Hall,

[52] CCR,

[53] IPM, John de Rocheford,

[54] TNA DL 25/1503,

[55] TNA C 241/34/65,

[56] Feet of Fines for Essex, v2, EI no 812,

[57] Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CCA-DCc-ChAnt/S/192 and 198,,

[58] TNA C 143/54/5, ; CPR, 1306, p413,

[59] CFR, v2, p46,; IPM, John de Rocheford,


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