In a century or more after the Conquest, the system of one man having manors in many counties, began to change, with the increase of families, with heirships by females, and for the general greater convenience of united property. There remain, however, to this day survivals of the Conqueror's peculiar but politic division of lands.
It has already been noticed that Richard “Sencler”, the son of Walter, earl of St.Cler, and the first of Medway, appears in Domesday Book as the holder in capite of Wortham, in the hundred of Hartismere, and of house and lands at Norwich. Says the record,
‘Of the burgesses who dwelt in Norwich, twenty-two are gone away and dwell in Beccles, a town of the abbot of St.Edmundsbury, and six in Humilgar hundred, and have forsaken the burgh, and King's Thorpe one, and on the land of Roger Bigot one, and on the land of William of Noies one, and on that of Richard de Sentcler one. Those who fled and those remaining, are altogether wasted or impoverished, partly through Earl Ralph's forfeitures, partly through fire, partly by the king's tribute, and partly by Waleran’.
Blomfield notes with a parenthesis a passage in The Domesday Book having reference to Norwich,
‘And Richard de Sentebor (rather Sent-cler) has one house’. In the quelling of “the rising of Norwich”, Richard, the king's chamberlain, was actively engaged, and received reward thus there of his loyalty. To fix his other lordships in England is not so easy as in these cases, where his name and surname occur in full. He was so well known, however, that the many entries under the name of Richard alone, now diflicult to authenticate, are on all grounds of probability largely his. To found on this, nevertheless, would be for many reasons useless. It may be sufficient to assume that he took his father's place on the Medway, as well as occupied the Suffolk and Norfolk lands to which that record positively fixes him. The Textus Roffensis would make him to be Richard, the king's chamberlain, who had the property of Ros, from which he gave returns to the monks of Rochester. In Ingulph's Chronicle, who was a contemporary and favourite of the Conqueror, he is called “Richard of Rulos, the king's chamberlain”, Rolph's being the Saxon name of Ros, which with “Chester” or castra added means Rolph's Castle. Ingulph praises the chamberlain highly, particularly about the kind way in which he got the historian's friend promoted to be abbot of the famous monastery of Glastonbury. This of itself shows Richard's influence with the king.
The barons of Ros were great men in the times of John and Henry III and subsequent reigns, and they were Richard's people. One of them married his blood relation, the heiress of the Todeneis, better known as the Albeneys, Aubenis, D'Aubignys, or D'Albinis of Belvoir Castle, Lincoln, and the same lineage with those of Arundel Castle, Sussex, descended from Rollo's uncle. The last of these barons Ros of Hamlake, Trierbut, and Belvoir died in 1508, and his sister heiring him, married Sir Robert Manners, the ancestor of the dukes of Rutland. Their son held also the barony of Vaux.
A complete reformation must be made as to the place in Kent called Ros. Dr. Thorpe, the editor of what he called the Textus Roffensis, is responsible most for the straying of the antiquaries on the subject. He mistook the old double “s” for the ancient “f”. It is the Textus Rossensis his collection of charters and ancient papers ought to have been called. Bishop Tanner in his Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica of writers to the sixteenth century, quotes Dempster as to Henricus Sinclarus decanus Glascuensis et episcopus Rossensis, the ambassador for peace between England and Scotland in 1555. Rossensis here means Ross in Scotland, but the word is one and the same with that applied to the Rochester records.
Rochester, after a prevalent manner in England, means simply “the castle of Ros”, the head of the lands given by the Conqueror to his relation, Walter, earl of St.Cler. The remarkable importance of Rochester and its castle in English history is hereby explained to satisfaction, being always in near relationships to the earlier sovereigns after the Conquest. Ros, or Rochester, as it afterwards came to be called from its castle gathering the town about it, was the first English chief home; and William when he became an emigrant and the cup-bearer or pincerna of Margaret Atheling, queen of Scotland, carried its name to his castle, on the linn of the Esk near Edinburgh, as was the Norman portable fashion. There is opening for insight as to the county of the name, in this view.
Walter of Medway, the earl of St.Cler in Normandy, and his sons and daughter, can be studied from no better central position than the English caput baroniae of Ros, with its monastery, its bridge of twenty-one arches, and its feudal castle; and the love of the lineage for centuries to the district and its institutions, civil and religious, has thus its eclaircissement. The outcome of the whole of this part of the inquiry might end in finding Walter himself to have been Wace's hero of the battle of Hastings, the “St.Cler who overthrew many of the Angles”, and that he and his family (except William, who became pincerna to Margaret Atheling) got largely and choicely from their king, Rochester or Ros, as then called, being the English “Schloss Stamm” of this great and present branch. The Roll of Battle Abbey would aid such view, and also others of the lists of the Conqueror's companions of 1066, “the lord of St.Cler” being more applicable to Walter the father than to Richard his eldest son. But the latter has the credit with writers of being the gallant knight in conspicuous action on the famous October day. Between them, however, there need be no rivalry, the furthest descendants having equally in either case the honour of the deeds of their ancestor.
It is a popular delusion that families become extinct, even if whole lineage is taken into account. Many of the present most flourishing Englishmen might find their earliest home at Ros, could they wend their way back through the changes of surnames and the accidents of time. In Scotland, the earl of Caithness represents many there, who have preserved, like himself, the surname intact, the older system aiding against the English local naming method; and they are the genuine stock of Walderne, Richard, and the rest of these Saint-Lo, in Normandy, and Rochester, in Kent, heroes of Rollo's blood.
The Romans had a different title altogether for Rochester, and Bede, centuries before the Conquest, says it got its name from a Saxon lord called Rouph. The Normans would call it Rouph's; and this would satisfy the prevalent name among antiquaries, and that suggested as the at least equally true one drawn from the history of those barons of Ros who appear in the historic scenes and charters of the kingdom more than any others.
What aids the theory of Richard being chamberlain is that he had a son Joel who also owed returns to the monks for this Ros or Rosa. There is a Richard, the son of Walter, witness to one of the earliest charters from the Tunbridge Richard Fitz-Gilbert, and he must have been Joel's father, the son of Walter of Medway. Joel is authenticated by being mentioned in the Rotulus 31 Henry I (1131) under Devon and Cornwall, as Joel of Medway, who pays the large tax of £11, 17s. 6d, and still owes the treasury £25, 10s. 5d. Richard's brother Britel had his lands chiefly in the south-western counties, and this nephew of his was the founder of the Devon and Cornwall branch. Vincent in criticising too bitterly the account given by Yorke, the heraldist of the Veres, earls of Oxford, quotes Matilda the empress's charter of promise to Aubrey de Vere, the chancellor; and “Juhel de Meduana” is mentioned as one of the witnesses and pledges she gives for the fulfilment. This is of itself sufficient to mark him as one of the ruling chief Normans, and of a family of first wealth and rank. The castle and tower of Colchester was part of the gifts in this charter; and Joel Sinclair, as one of the relations male of Eudo Dapifer, by his adhesion to Matilda's proposals would be of special service. The castle subsequently returned to the Sinclairs, and then again the Veres got it; so that affinity is the likelier explanation than many political changes of the violent kind.
There is a Geffrey of Ros who gives the tenths of Ealdeam or Yaldham to Rochester monks. He is a descendant of Richard, and the founder of the Aldhams or Audhams, Robert de Aldham being his successor by the charter. Walter, the second of Medway, was the eldest son of the chamberlain, and this Geffrey was a younger brother whose son assumed the local name Aldham, from the remarkable manor which still keeps the name in the Yaldham-St.Clere of Kent, near Maidstone. Sir Thomas de Aldham was one of Richard Coeur de Lion's famous knights at the siege of Acre in 1189, and there is also a Sir Thomas de St.Clair among his warriors at the same success. They are probably one and the same. The proof of the lineage of the Aldhams is in this Rotulus in Curia Scaccarii:
‘The king takes homage from John, the son of John Sinclair, blood-relation and heir of Francis of Aldham, for all his lands and tenements which the same Francis held’. But this younger branch from Richard, the king's chamberlain, will demand much attention for themselves.
Richard must be followed to the north, where at the end of his life he lived most, in the centre of Norfolk especially. The Wrotham of Suffolk which he had from the Conquest, was by some of his descendants doubled in Wrotham of Kent, just as Norman names were brought across the Channel, causing doubles. William of Wrotham, who was appointed by Henry II the justiciary to decide proper weights, measures, and other necessities of honest dealing, was one of Richard's descendants in Kent. The family of Wrotham were of high rank and influence in the county, and they had lands also in Somersetshire. But the Kent relations are numerous, and, except two chief families cannot be reckoned clearly, with any amount of care, on the knowledge that has survived.
Of all his properties those near Norwich required, and had, most of Richard's presence. He secured part of the lands confiscated from the burghers for the rebellion of 1075, begun at the “marriage of Norwich”. It is not likely, however, that his official and military duties left him much opportunity of living in any one district, till old age came. Then there is record of his gifting lands and tithes to the church at Grassenhale, Norfolk, for the good of his own and his wife's soul. The Norfolk lands were made to suffer fire and sword, but they had no doubt more than recovered their usual fruitfulness before the monks could accept of them as gifts, being nice in their appreciation of the world's goods even so early as that time.
Whether the eldest or a younger branch of his family, the Norfolk and Suffolk line seemingly grew independent in a generation or two from their Kent brethren. They become noticeable most near St.Edmondsbury, but they held lands also at the same time in Kent and other counties. Their presence was certainly most given to the north, and they may be dealt with as specially belonging to Norfolk and Suffolk, their other lands gradually becoming more and more subsidiary to where the chief hall was, the caput baroniae, or usual place of holding their courts as lords of manors. It was this that first corrected a little the extraordinary spreading of one man's lands through sometimes all the counties.
The earl of Moretaine, the Conqueror's uterine brother, had the enormous number of 793 lordships through the island, but gradually such lords built one or more head castles to dominate the best parts of their estates, and exchanges began to become frequent for the purpose of uniting properties, and saving toil of travel and expense of management. Sir Richard Pole says that the richest men took to buying properties near London and selling the distant ones. Richard Sinclair, the chamberlain, could not have seen much of this change, but his descendants in these counties grew to be permanent residents. Of this heroic son of Walter, earl of St.Cler, who “overturned many of the English”, as the Romance of Rollo says, on the field of Hastings, nothing much further need be said. Position, wealth, and, in nge, the usual thoughtfulness of Norman chief men were his; and through his double line of Kent and East Anglian descendants, it will be seen that no branch of his name had more of the high qualities of the race. That he lived long has already appeared. It is probable that he died about the latter years of the reign of Henry I, later than his cousin-german, Eudo Dapifer, who died in 1119.
In his History of Norfolk Blomfield has various notices of him. From the Register of the monks of Castleacre, he has saved the knowledge that
‘Richard de Sancto or St.Cleer gave the said monks his right in the church in free alms for ever, for the health of his own and his wife's soul, his heirs' and ancestors' souls, with all the liberties thereto belonging’. He adds the list of witnesses to the document of gift.