To the modern reader a full account of the life of Adam Sinclair, the son of Hubert of Rye, would probably be more interesting and important than the biographies of dozens of feudal fighting warriors; and there remains most authentic knowledge of him and his doings. Even of his personal character considerable things can be gathered. Getting the clue to find him was nearly as difficult as making the eggs to stand proved to the Spanish dons deriding Columbus as discoverer, though the thing was fairly before the eyes.
Sir Henry Ellis in his Introduction to Domesday Book mentions Adam in the lists he gives of landholders, but the indexer of the Domesday Book printed by the government record commission never refers to him. The holders in capite are alone indexed, though it is notorious that many of the undertenants were far wealthier and more important. Examination of the wonderful volumes directly shows Adam at every turn, not only in the masterly arrangement of his subject with his three fellow “king's justiciaries”, as the book itself calls its makers, but as a very large landholder.
Hasted in his History of Kent, has frequent notices, though from Domesday only, of this perhaps the greatest of all “the men of Kent”. He was undertenant of an immense portion of the bishop of Bayeux, Odo's estates, the brother of the Conqueror, by far the richest landholder in England. Adammus filius Huberti has not one inch of soil by the in capite holding, and it may be safely said that this, with such a man, was by intention. That it was as practically useful to hold from the one brother as the other, no matter for the sovereignty, he must have decided. Alured, the chronicler of Beverley, wrote of Odo,
‘Who was almost a second king of England’. Jealousy between the brothers kept Adam from all favours of grants from the king, is a possibility not at all likely. There may have been a pride with Odo which would not permit him to allow Adam to hold but from himself. Adam was treasurer, chancellor, in short, full dapifer to this richest sharer in the spoils of England; and he had the best of fields in which to glean effectually. In “Kent” his name occurs continually.
Pearson in his Middle Ages calculates that Odo's yearly income in England was about £3380, and that the king's other uterine brother, the duller Robert de Moretayne, the next wealthiest, had about; £1900 a year. These are immense sums of money, as the value of it then was. Odo accumulated in the sixteen years after the Conquest enough to buy the papacy, and he had already purchased a stately palace at Rome when in 1082 William seized him personally as earl of Kent, on his way to Italy to use all his power to become pope. His effects were soon after confiscated to the king's use, and as this was the very time of the compilation of The Domesday Book, it is not likely that Adam Sinclair suffered severely by the change. Had his lord become the king of all the world that the pope then was, his history would certainly have had great additional chapters in it. Odo's nephew, Rufus, re-established him in his estates, which had not lost anything by his absence for six years; but again he fell into trouble, and only got out of prison in Henry I's reign, when he went with Curthose to Jerusalem, and died at the siege of Antioch. The crown would be his nearest heir, but after the death of Henry, difficulties might occur to Adam's rule of the bishop and earl's estates.
William of Iypres got the earldom of Kent in Stephen's time, he who built the tower of the castle of Rye in Sussex, and it is probable he was of the Sinclair connection, by marriage if not otherwise. That he was by birth a Fleming nor aids nor hinders any question of lineage. Adam kept his “great possessions” in Kent and Northampton. The results of these changes could hardly but improve the fortune of so able a man. Hasted keeps repeating that Odo's property was confiscated to the crown by Rufus, but the change had no effect on an under-tenant, and there is documentary proof that Adam's lands remained to his lineage after his death.
Adam is one of the three chevaliers of Rye Castle in France who escorted William, then only duke of Normandy, when riding for his life from his enemies in Valence; and he followed his fortunes afterwards to Hastings with his three brothers in the usual way. Some time then he must have formed the friendship of Odo. The scholarship of both would draw them together. Most of the histories are quite silent as to the great and most practical love of learning of the bishop of Bayeux. Some of his worst troubles came from the fact that he was before and above his time, with all the cultivation there undoubtedly was among the Normans. It is as Odo's first man that Adam acted long after the Conquest, and this brought him continually into the presence of the sovereign, where his brother Eudo had first place.
In the MS. codex in bibliotheca Cottoniana, Nero, D.S., from which Dugdale quotes the history of Hubert of Rye's sons into the Monasticon, there are additions of which he did not make use. Adam, like the abbot of the same name there, was “of Campes”, and this opens a vista of information. The “two camps” are described by Hasted fully. They were near Kemsing, on the London side of Maidstone; and of all places in England this is one of the most interesting to those who have any interest in the lineage. Sinclairs for centuries have clung tenaciously to this particular Kent district. Adam's chief mansion was there, in front of the Hurst forest; and a more beautiful and fertile spot it would be impossible to find anywhere. This MS. says he was given “large possessions in Kent”, and Campes was their centre. The name arose from three British and Roman encampments in the place. He was known as Adam of Campes as well as Adam the son of Hubert.
That he was of the first capacity the whole of The Domesday Book goes to prove, but there are also everywhere marks of self-possession and retiring sense of ability which have a most refreshing effect in seeing him among those, in their noisy clamant character at least, rather crude, brave mere warriors with the earth-hunger on them. He also had a hearty appreciation of the value of land, as is to be inferred from the great law-suit which Lanfranc, on his appointment to the archbishopric, instituted against Odo, for taking possession of properties belonging, he contended, to the see. Pinindean, where the court was held, on the west side of the Medway not far from where it reaches the Thames, became afterwards the possession of Adam and his lineage. Geoffrey, bishop of Coustance, sat as chief justiciary and viceroy on that great day, which had all that was best in Kent there. Richard Fitz-Gilbert, Hamo Vicecomes, the clerisy in its strength, were there; and no doubt Adam, as perhaps most interested, had a very anxious, and, as the case ended, a somewhat unsuccessful time. Lanfranc recovered pieces of lands attached to other properties; but it may safely be affirmed that the bishop of Bayeux, brother of the king, and Adam his relation and manager, took their own fully out of the whole affair.
Not many more remarkable events have there been in our civil history than this land reckoning at Pinindean. Adam had a most difficult task throughout, to keep Odo's business straight. His own fortunes probably rose and fell to some extent with Odo's very chequered life; but he did secure large lands despite all those storms of William the Conqueror seizing his own brother so that he should not become pope and be then his lord, of William Rufus conquering the bishop out of Pevensey and Rochester castles, and of many other such troubles into which fell often the able but perhaps fickle bishop of Bayeux, earl of Kent, and first governor or viceroy, with the earl of Hereford, of Norman England. It is easy to guess what opportunities and difficulties Adam had under such a lord.
That he was worthy of all trust, his appointment by William the Conqueror himself in 1080, as commissioner to reckon up his kingdom accurately for state purposes, is ample proof. It is probable that he was an expert in money business of the state. With the two Giffards (the earl of Buckingham and his brother the chancellor of England and bishop of Winchester), he kept continually conversant; and it is all but certain that he was, quietly as such men like to work, foot and hand in some of their most difficult duties. Walter was one of his fellow commissioners for The Domesday Book; the
‘lieutenants of the king’, as they are called sometimes there, as well as “king's justiciars”.
It is almost romantic how the names of these high benefactors of the nation have not been lost to memory and to fame. There is nothing in the record itself, to discover who its authors were. Heming's Chartulary, as it is called, preserved in the Cottonian library of MSS., Tib. A. xiii., is the register of St.Mary's, Worcester; and an extract from a claim of its monks for a cartula to certain lands in the Oswaldeslaves hundred, revealed this secret, to the infinite delight of the admirers of able deeds and able men. In proving their claims to the property, they go back to the time of William the Conqueror, and insert an extremely important passage of the very best kind of history.
‘This testimony the whole county of Worcester confirmed by oath, at the instance and effort of the very pious and sagacious father the lord bishop Wulstand, in the time of William the Conqueror, before these same princes of the king, namely, Remigio, bishop of Lincoln; Earl Walter Giffard; Henry of Ferrers; and Adam, the brother of Eudo, king's dapifer, who to inquire about and describe the possessions and customs of the king, as well as of his chiefs, in this province, and in many others, were appointed by the king himself at that time in which he made the whole of England to be described’. The monks got their cartula, and if any proof were wanted, this would by its own antiquity and acceptance go far of itself to prove the authenticity of the account of the compilers of Domesday. There is not any question as to the value of the information among the most critical authorities.
The best, and surely an immortal, monument to Adam's fame, is the magnificent orderly record itself; and a reference to its pages, especially under “Terra Episcopi Baiocensis”, in the various counties, might be amply sufficient to bring him fully before an inquirer's attention. His appearances solely in the smaller type of those not holding directly from the king have been explained. Practically, he was an in capite holder, though there was hardly any real social distinction between the highest and next highest forms of tenure. He is distinguished from nearly all the holders in The Domesday Book by the rather unique position of being properly of neither tenure, and for this variety from the monotony, the reader has to thank him, as for much other benefit.
What he held in Kent may be given as example for the other counties, and good example, because this was the chief scene of both his lord's and his own interests. In the lest of Sudtone, Achestane hundred, Adam the son of Hubert held from the bishop, Redlege; in Helmstrie hundred, South Cray and also Wickham; in Laroschefel hundred, Lelebourne; in Aihorde hundred, Sudtone, Certh, another Sudtone, Bogelei, Langvelei (the manor of which Hubert Sinclair's daughter's husband was afterwards lord), Otringdene, Esselve; in Rochester hundred, Pinpa; in Twiferde hundred he held some land without a name; in Medston hundred, Celca, Heham, Colinge, Bicklei; in Rovinden hundred some lands unnamed; in Faversham hundred, Ore, Stanefelle,and another Ore; in Ferleberge hundred, Fanne; and in Estrei hundred, Hamolde. To reckon up all the entries in the various counties over which Odo's lands, as was the method of land grants, spread, where Adam, the commissioner and his steward, had holdings, would be a miniature new Domesday. The object is gained that this son of the house of Rye is known to have succeeded, at least as well as his able brothers better known to general fame.
His brother Eudo Dapifer was his heir. It is not likely that Adam was married, or if so he must have had no children or all had died before himself. Like Hamo Dapifer he lived the individual life, and left his properties to his nearest relatives. There are several charters in the Textus Roffensis which amply prove this. Eudo died in 1119; and Adam (Eudo being younger, and living to a great age) it is probable died early in Henry Beauclerc's reign. Their gifts to one of the favourite churches with the lineage, St.Andrews, Rochester, aid, by the interposition of possession by a third between the brothers, the thought that Adam did not live long after the completion of The Domesday Book's pages.
‘Eudo, dapifer of the king, gave to St.Andrews all those tenths which Adam his brother had formerly given to Anschetillus, archdeacon of Canterbury, and which the same Anschetillus afterwards granted to St.Andrews’. If anything were needed to add weight to the Cottonian account of the Rye family this would satisfy all criticism.
But there is still another charter in the famous Rochester set of rolls which shows the relations between Eudo and Adam well. Eudo gives tenths of various kinds of produce to St.Andrews from his lands of Buggeleia, Langley, Suthune, Leiburne, Readlega, Culinga and Merelea. These are some of the same places to which Adam's name is attached in Domesday. Certainly the Fitz-Hamo or Corbeil Sinclairs had possession of some of his lands, and they may either have got them at his death or afterwards. From these charters there are incidental biographical lights on both Eudo and Adam.
One charter refers more perhaps to the former's ways of life.
‘Rodulph, the butler of Eudo, gave to the monks of St.Andrews a certain tenth of his, from Cooling, worth five shillings in the year, for the soul of his father and mother’. Eudo gave him this property of which he grants the tenths, Cowling being part of Eudo's heirship from his brother. The western and eastern sides of the Medway down to the Thames were the situation of these properties, which are easily distinguishable in their modern names as, for examples, Boxley, Ridley, Langley, Sutton, Leyburn, Cowling. The Celca which Adam had, is the Chalk which Hubert, the son of Hamo of Colchester, gave to the monks of tlie monastery of Bermondsey, and which his grandson, William of Langvale, confirmed to them.
In Edward I's time the monks, in answer to a Quo warranto, proved their right to it then, by the aid of Robert Sinclair, miles. How it came to Hamo de St.Clair of Colchester Castle, would be most interesting to discover. This will come up in discussing others of the name, who likewise possessed some of Adam's lands.
The Cobhams and the Brocs got parts of Sinclair lands. Whether they were of the lineage, it is more diflicult to see than that William of Eynesford, the sirs and lords Leyburne, and the several Sir Peters of Huntingfield were. One Eynesford created, inadvertently enough, the quarrel between Becket and King Henry II; the Cobhams, and the Brocs especially, seem to have had blood reasons for the part they took in it; Sir Peter of Huntingfield was one of Edward I's warriors in his early success at Carlaverock in Scotland: but they were all extinct in the male line before the fifteenth century. The Fitz-Bernards also cross the paths too frequently to have no closer than general ties.
The Aubenis were related through the daughter of Earl Simon Sinclair, and William Aubeny's name is the almost invariable accompaniment of Eudo's frequent signature to charters, and especially royal ones. William was the king's pincerna or butler, one of the very highest offices of the time.
With Adam, the commissioner of The Domesday Book, bachelor, learned, and extremely wealthy, the Sinclairs most under the rule of the Norman dynasty, of which they were part, must now be left for those of the days of the Plantagenets. Naturally they grew more of strangers, though gradually, to the royal court, when ties of kin got dim, and the reckoning only could be made by female connections. All that was highest in marriage, lands, or office they had in England for nearly a century after the Conquest, and the glow of their fame and their physical and intellectual powers kept them high for centuries afterwards, in a way rare to any one particular lineage. The weight of the life of the next to be considered goes into the era of the new dynasty of the Celtic Fulcs, though biographic facts shun too fixed lines.