The Origins of the Rochfords at Walpole, 1348-1354

While researching an upcoming post, What Happened to the Walpole Rochfords?, I was able to track down the original manuscript of a final concord, or fine, that is very briefly indexed in Walter Rye’s A Short Calendar of the Feet of Fines for Norfolk:

“*Rad. fil’ Saieri de Rocheford, Knight, and Matilda his wife, v. Saier de Rocheford, Knight, Robt. de Stikenay, and Rad. de Bigeney, in Walpole, Hyndryngham, Barsham, Ketelston, Creyk, and Gayst.” [1]

This is an important record. This “Rad.” was Ralph de Rochford I of Walpole, the second son of Sir Sayer de Rochford of Fenne. Ralph was the progenitor of the Walpole branch of his family. He was the first to have extensive estates in the village, and the first to base himself there permanently. Why he chose Walpole, and how he acquired these estates, is a key outstanding mystery in the history of the family.

Walter Rye dated the above record to 27-28 Edward III, i.e. 1353-55, making it the earliest known record of Ralph’s property at Walpole. So, we might expect the original manuscript of it to provide some valuable clues. In fact, it turns out that it not only reveals much more than Rye’s brief abstract – it also throws in a few surprises.

Continue reading “The Origins of the Rochfords at Walpole, 1348-1354”


The Kirkstead Cartulary

An index from the Kirkstead Cartulary relating to property in Scrane, 1200s (Copyright The British Library Board, Cotton MS Vespasian E XVIII).

Like many people of their time, the Rochfords and their Fenne ancestors were generous in their gifts to local religious foundations. In the 1100s and early 1200s they had a particularly strong connection with Kirkstead Abbey, which was founded by Hugh son of Eudo, lord of Tattershall, in 1139.

It was said that Hugh visited Fountains Abbey in the wilderness near Ripon in Yorkshire, and he was so impressed by what he saw that he lured several of its monks to a new, carefully selected site on his own land: a “place of horror like a vast solitude” surrounded by wild brushwood and swamps, perfect for men in search of a purer life.[1]

The discovery of the Kirkstead Cartulary in the British Library has provided a huge amount of background information on the Fennes in particular, for a period in English history where there are few surviving records of men of their status. They were landowners, but not nobles.

Continue reading “The Kirkstead Cartulary”

The will of Sir Ralph Rochford III of Fenne, died 1440

Sir Ralph Rochford III’s last testament of 1439, will of 1440, and probate documents, in the Westminster Abbey Muniments Room, copyright the Dean and Chapter of Westminster

One  exciting discovery during my research of the Rochfords has been this: the original manuscripts of the will of Sir Ralph Rochford III of Fenne, who died in 1440. They were hiding among a wodge of old deeds relating to the manors of Fenne and Scrane, in Westminster Abbey Muniments Room. They have survived the years in excellent condition, are easily readable, and have seals still attached, although the latter have crumbled and rubbed over time.[1]

Sir Ralph is probably the best known and most successful member of his family. He was a close aid to Henry IV, a leading knight of the Lancastrian period, and a mentor and guardian to the young Henry VI. He led a terrifically exciting life. But his death was calamitous: afterwards, his family’s fortunes spiraled. His will is a very significant document and record of his life.

Continue reading “The will of Sir Ralph Rochford III of Fenne, died 1440”

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

MR 316 242 x 5

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”