An examination of the witnesses to charters in the Monasticon or in the Rochester register, will discover no more frequent name than Hamo, unless it be that of Eudo Dapifer. As viscount of Kent sometimes, as dapifer in other places, he appears in all the reigns of the three Norman kings. In their charters he is meus dapiferus, and his signatures occur in Normandy as well as England to royal charters and others. Henry I gives a charter of Aylesford to St.Andrews, Rochester, witnessed there by Eudo Dapifer and Haymo Dapifer alone, and another by William Giffard, Eudo Dapifer, Haymo Dapifer, and William Albini, all relatives by blood or marriage. Gilbert, of Tunbridge Castle, earl of Clare, granted Rethravelda, Sussex, to the monks in the time of Rufus, the witnesses of which were Roger Bigod and Hamo Viscount, at Winchester. Henry often begins his charters, “To Hamo Dapifer and my faithful barons of Kent”, as if Hamo's duties or residence had specially to do with that county. One of the earliest of his appearances is in the charter given 1082 by Bishop William Karileph to Durham monastery. It was signed at London by Robert, earl of Moreton; Roger, count of Shrewsbury; Robert, count of Northumbria; Roger Bigod; Hamo Dapifer; and others. In the charter of Simon Sinclair, earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, to St.Andrews, Northampton, 1108, his name does not appear, but Eudo Dapifer's does. He is dead before the end of Henry I's reign, because in 1131 there is an account in state record of him being dead, and of his heirs paying for entry to his possessions.
If “Hamo Dapiferus” and “Hamo Vicecomes” are one, as Sir Henry Ellis and many genealogists state, a great deal can be found about his wide lands in various counties, from The Domesday Book as well as other sources. He was proprietor in capite of lands in Essex, Kent, and Surrey, and as under-tenant in Kent, Surrey, Dorset, Wilts, Cheshire, Devon. Not one of the largest sharers of the Conqueror's gifts, he still held much, and it is known that his land in Normandy was extensive.
William Gemeticensis, after describing the “very great heir-ship” Robert Consul, the king's son, got with Matilda Sinclair, the daughter of Robert Fitz-Hamo, adds,
‘The king gave also to him (Robert) the land of Hamo Dapifer, the uncle, by her father's side, of his wife’. He must have meant in Normandy; for, by the state roll of 31 Henry I (1131), Robert de Crepacor or Crevecour or Crepito Corde heirs at least a portion of Hamo's lands. He pays a fine or relief of £156, 13s. 4d. for what he gets of Hamo's lands in Kent alone, which represents, as money then was, large property. It is expressly stated that he only gets part of the dapifer's land. Matilda got her portion and no more. Her brother or near relation William de Sancto Claro likewise shared, it is to be expected.
Hasted, the historian of Kent, is wrong, in supposing that Hamo was a Crevecour; and it is from the fact that Robert Crevecour is part heir to Hamo that he is led to the mistake. In a charter by Robert de Crepito Corde to the canons of Leeds monastery, in the district of Chatham, he describes Hamo Dapifer as meus avunculus. What this shows is that his mother was a sister of Hamo and of Robert Fitz-Hamo of Gloucester, avunculus meaning uncle by the female side. As has been said before, this does not altogether preclude the Crevecours from being themselves Sinclairs; but it proves that Hamo was not a Crevecour, unless the Crevecours recently took their name, being originally Sinclairs. One of them is given by Wace as at the battle of Hastings, and Prevost localises them as from Crevecour-en-Auge, near Lisieux; so that only in Normandy could the lines be traced to any common ancestor, if at all. Philpott the great Kent antiquary is Hasted's authority, and in the third volume of the transactions of the Society of Antiquaries, Hamo Viscount is assumed also by a writer there to be Hamo Crevequer “the lord of Kent” on the same foundation, in connection with a charter discovered freshly, given in the Conqueror's time, where Hamo Vicecomes appears prominently. The fact of the marriage of the sister of the dapifer to Robert Crevecour's father is, in the first degree at least, thoroughly contradictory to Hasted's supposition.
The history of the Crevecours, however, is illustrative of at all events this marriage relationship. Dugdale's Baronage, by the names, Hamo being frequent, and by the places it describes as connected with them, throws sufficient light on a connection that needs no further light for proof than the record. It would have been pleasant to have found something definite as to Robert Crepacor's Sinclair mother. That she was high-souled and religious like many ladies of her family might be inferred from her son's liberality to the church. He founded the priory of Leeds in Kent for canons regular of the order of St.Augustine. His brother Adam (a name suggestive of a great Kent Sinclair, Adam, the commissioner of The Domesday Book), assisted with this foundation, Robert's wife Rose signs a charter for Leeds. He has a brother and a son Elyas. The Giffards so liberal to Gloucester Abbey, the lords of Brimsfield, have the same strange first names among them. Rose was the favourite name among the Giffard earls of Buckingham, Walter Giffard of whom was also a commissioner of The Domesday Book. Robert Crepacour was heired by Daniel, a name often among the western Giffards.
To draw fixed lines among probabilities, however, is of the nature of making ropes of the salt sea sand. Antiquity will have itself respected by keeping the most eager inquirers sometimes at a distance. There are, however, indications of where and how inquiry might find facts and satisfaction. Hamo's lineage must, beyond this authenticated marriage of his sister to Robert Crevecour's father, be kept apart now from these Crepacours, who by heiring a Kentish baron, Maminot, a name in Domesday, became, Dugdale shows, themselves barons of England. The “barony of Chatham” was their lordship. They cannot on present evidence be claimed as of Hamo's male lineage.
There is a state message from Henry I, preserved in the Reg. Roff. of Dr. Thorpe, to Hamo Dapifer and to Hugh of Bocklande, to preserve most carefully the fishing on the Thames for the monks of Rochester. Who is this Hugh that seems lieutenant or colleague to Hamo's sheriffship of Kent ? Surnames did not begin, Tindal says, till the reign of William the Conqueror, and grew slowly. Bocklande, or Buckland as now written, meant a property for which Hugh or some predecessor had written or book warrant. There is a Bocklande in Kent and one near Farringdon, Berkshire. These Bucklands are, in the genealogical reckonings, relations of Eudo Dapifer by affinity and perhaps by blood. This, however, may have light reflected back upon it from the history of a Hugo de St.Clare, about whom there is nothing problematic.
Madox in his History of the Exchequer has one interesting reference which may be given:
‘Concession of King William the Great: William, by the grace of God king of the English, to Hamo Dapifer and all his supporters in the bishopric of Rochester, greeting’. This put with the fact that Hamo was one of the busy persons in the great trial of Archbishop Lanfranc against Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, about Canterbury lands, and is there vicecomes, towards the very last years of the Conqueror's reign, makes his offices almost impossible to separate and distinguish. It has been before suggested that he was substitute dapifer for his relation Eudo, though Spellman's guess may after all be the correct one, that he was that of England alone and Eudo of Normandy alone. But Eudo in Henry's reign was certainly that of England also, and, it may be, after Hamo's death. The puzzle is not made the less because, as probably as not, Hamo was alive after 1119, the date of Eudo's death. One point is certain, that everything shows the two dapifers to have been the most delightful and agreeable of men. Their relations towards each other seem to be entirely without rivalry or jealousy, whatever the explanation.
Hamo, without children, and his estates being apparently well divided among his relations, it is hardly necessary to draw out account of them from The Domesday Book, where they are fully exhibited, under the large capital headings of an in capite holder, and the smaller titles of under-holder. In appearance and quantity the estates would be much of a parallel with Eudo Dapifer's, who, except that he had a family, seems another self to Hamo Dapifer. They are as like as brothers in success and abilities on the secular side, but Hamo Dapifer's love of the monks does not much appear, and by this he may be the inferior of the lord of Colchester. An able business man Hamo must have been, without more of the religious faculty in development than “divine manners” and savoir faire. His character, even to the division of his wealth, leaves an impression of sagacity and refinement that cannot be resisted, though antiquity has taken considerable care to make it dim. That he was not neglectful of his soul's welfare, as then considered, a confirmation by the Conqueror of the returns of the church of Tarentford given by him is proof.
‘William by the grace of God king of the Angles, to the very faithful French-born and Angles greeting: Know that I have conceded that donation which Hamo, my dapifer, made to the church of St.Andrew in the town of Rochester, of the chvirch which is in my manor of Tarentford; and the sons of Hamo himself, Robert and Hamo, with me present, have granted the same donation of their father. Witnesses: Robert, count Mellent; Robert, count of Meritolio; and many Others’.
This translation of a charter from the Reg. Roff. would further seem to set at rest the whole difficulty of the dapifers, by making the great earl of Corbeuil who came from Normandy with William the king's dapifer, and his younger son the viscount of Kent. Fitz-Hamo's father seems a more important person for the highest office of the kingdom than his younger brother. If the dapifership were hereditary, surely the “knight of Rye” as the elder were the proper holder of it, after Hamo of Normandy was done with it. But there is another charter in the same collection by Henry, king of the Angles, to Archbishop Anselm, to Hamo Dapifer, and to all the barons and others of Kent, which is witnessed by two names only, at Rochester, Eudo Dapifer and Hamo Dapifer. The ingenious are welcome to the pleasant feat of unravelling these seeming contradictions.
Again, Henry writes about Little Wrotham to Archbishop Anselm and to Hamo Viscount. It may not be impossible to solve this question of identity or difference from the Monasticon and Reg. Roff. alone. With the chief drift now it is not a question of moment, mainly because the younger Hamo, whether never dapifer or dapifer as well as his father, but certainly the viscount of Kent, had no children to perpetuate his name, and give him a place among future Englishmen. He is even as viscount or sheriff an able and interesting figure, but the interest in him dies with the division of his property. Sir Henry Ellis is probably too hasty in assuming that the two great Hamoes of The Domesday Book are one. He is a good but by no means immaculate authority. Adam Sinclair, the commissioner, would have been willing, even if the recorders were different in the various counties, to keep these relations of his clear personalities. The difficulty may be nice rather than particularly useful, though it is a bold or ignorant thing to protest as to what little or great may be useful in investigagations of this nature.
Hamo Dapifer in The Domesday Book, holds in capite in Essex, and as undertenant in Kent, Cheshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Devon. The entries under the heading “Hamo Vicecomes” are, in capite, Kent and Surrey, and also various lands in the same counties as undertenant. The account by Thomas Cromwell in his History of Colchester of the entry relating to that city may be added, more for his conjecture and for genealogical aid than perhaps for any biographical weight.
‘Hamo, dapifer, or steward of the king's household, had one house and a court or hall (from which it may be conjectured that to him the government of the town had been confided), one hide of land, and fifteen burgesses, holden by his predecessor Thurfern in King Edward's time, all which then paid rent, except the hall: the burgesses still paid so much per head, but nothing for their arable land or the hide they held of Hamo. In the hide there was one carucate or plough-land in King Edward's time, but at the time of this survey none. Hamo had also six acres of meadow. All which in the time of King Edward were worth £4, which was also paid afterwards, but when the survey was made only forty shillings’.
Money values have no present comparison. The burgesses paid sixpence a head by the year for all taxes, rent, and everything; and the exorbitant weight of such taxation caused famines which Eudo Dapifer had to allay with corn from beyond sea. This Thomas Cromwell calls Eudo the dapifer for Normandy, but he is not clear as to the relation between Hamo and Eudo, both being possessors and rulers in Colchester at the same time. The hall or court seems to have been under the castle jurisdiction and lordship of the wealthier Eudo, though it is possible that independent civil cases had their decisions under Hamo. It is of considerable importance for understanding something of a subsequent Hamo, to find this one in official as well as some proprietary position in Colchester.
J.H. Round in the Antiquary of September 1852, discusses Hamo's position, and repudiates Freeman's translation and explanation of the passage in The Domesday Book referring to Colchester. He has in a note the genealogical fact that Hamo was the son of Hamo Dentatus, and with reference to Eudo Dapifer as also there he adds, “Strange to find him by his fellow dapifer, the son of the Conqueror's preserver”. Family affairs in the highest circles are often very peculiar; the friend at one period can be the foe of a subsequent, and vice versa, let it be remembered.