The first was John de St.Clere of Igtham, Kent. Igtham, or, as it has been explained, the “eight villages”, is not far from Sevenoaks, and is in the immediate neighbourhood of St.Clere, which had the name of Aldham in his time. The properties of Igtham and Aldham bordered each other, and the evidence goes to show that the Igthams were a younger branch of the Aldhams, and both families the descendants of Richard, the king's chamberlain, son of Walter, earl of St.Cler, and in Kent known as Walter of Medway.
Nothing grows more certain, as the facts are further discovered, than that the Sinclairs got numerous in this favourite county of theirs; and, despite the difficulty of assuming local names, the lineage in the more influential cases cannot be hidden. It is better to err on the side of restraint, for the likelihoods lead to their identification with many territorial families of Kent; but this, to be thoroughly satisfactory, would require time and accuracy of research beyond all ordinary or perhaps useful purpose.
There are state records enough of those periods to make such a special inquiry distinctly satisfactory to the scientific sense. It would, however, have to be a labour of love and leisure. History, especially English history, is only to be known thoroughly by investigation of the progress, rise, and fall of families; and in this way reward might be reaped from a devotion of years to even one such county as this, where the Sinclairs, if not as thick as the leaves of Vallombrosa, undoubtedly composed a large part of the ruling men, under their lineage or local names, from the Norman Conquest downwards.
Madox and Tindal say that the Great Rolls of most of the years of Henry II, Richard I, and John are in being; but, if so, a good many of them are not yet printed. With such valuable burdens of history and antiquity as they carry, it is a national scandal if one line of them will be left in the obscurity of MS. Twenty thousand common contemporary bills of parliament are of less urgency than a bill which could save for posterity such knowledge of national history as any one year of these rolls, “great” in many senses, contains. For what is already available, the historian and antiquary, as teachers of the piety of loving country, and as illustrators of notable action by examples, are grateful beyond all expression; but if there is more to be done, it is a disgrace which cannot be too soon wiped off our body politic, so proud of its modern cleanliness of civilisation. No madness of antiquarianism prompts the warning; it is the knowledge that a nation's most precious thing is its past history, this being the chief factor, if well considered, of its best condition.
John Sinclair of Igtham married Joan Audham, his neighbour and kinswoman, in the desirable, but not romantic, way which is still familiar to England. It does not appear that he got any dowry or heirship with her; but, through her right, their son largely increased the patrimony. The first John, who was survived by his wife Joan Audham, died in 1327, the year which began the reign of Edward III. He was in manhood in Edward I's reign, and it is probable he may have had his share in the French, Welsh, and Scottish wars of that time.
Of the battles in the last, none might have so much personal interest to him as the three-in-one contest of 24 February, 1302, fought near his kinsman's “castle of Ros or Ross”, as Rapin has it, the Roslin Castle of Scottish history, “lin” being descriptive only of its situation over a linn or fall of the Esk. Sir William Sinclair, or, as English records would have written, Sir William de Ros, was one of the leaders who beat thrice on that day the three English armies of Edward's guardian of the kingdom of Scotland, John de Segrave. These considerations of naming would almost give the colour of fact to Stow's statement, that the Sinclair who founded the Scottish families went with William the Lion from England, on his return thence by ransom. What is more likely, and it agrees in most respects with authentic ancient documents and histories of date near the Conquest, is that William Sinclair who went to Scotland with Malcolm's English wife, Queen Margaret Atheling, in 1069, had possession for two or three years of Ros, in Kent, and carried the love of it with him. William de Ros he would be known as, according to Norman fashion, and he would have no choice here but to use his local name. When he became an “emigrant”, his brother Richard would get the lands he left; and from him descended the Ros and Aldham names now being followed, with clearer evidence than there is for the earlier time.
John may have witnessed Wallace's execution at London on an August day of 1305. If the same race lighting on each side as leaders could make a civil war, that struggle throughout was so. The populaces of both countries were only assisting at the bitter settling of a Norman family quarrel; the Plantagenets, the Bruces, Cleres and St.Clairs, Comyns, Baliols, et hoc genus omne, being in the scientific sense of this abused phrase of the “closest blood” and of innumerable affinities to each other. It has always been easy for ambitious intellect to dupe popular instinct, as to national and other fallacious independences. The moral training of wars has hidden fountains, as the Nile once had.
What side John de St.Clair took in the struggles for and against the favourites, in the first place, Piers Gaveston, and in the second, the two more formidable Spencers, during Edward II's reign, can only be guessed at, through the execution of his wife's nephew, the baron, Francis Audham. Double kinsmanship, so to put it, and being his nearest heir, would keep John's sympathies warm with him and the other barons, against the tyrannical men of their own order, the two Hugh Despensers. These had then the earldom of Gloucester, so long associated directly and indirectly with his lineage since Robert Fitz-Hamo's time, the elder getting it through marriage with a Clare; but it is difficult to decide how this would, or if it would, affect inclinations. That strong personal interest in the chief problems of the period held him, is enough to have shown for further purpose. The triumph of Queen Isabella and her favourite, Roger Mortimer, earl of March, by the execution of the two Spencers and the deposition of Edward II, her husband, took place in John de St.Clair's last year; and he may have lived in 1327 long enough to know of the crowning of the boy of fifteen who proved so great a king, Edward III, and of the tragic death of the deposed monarch in Berkeley Castle.
It is of more genealogical interest to find from the archives of the “city” of London that he had a contemporary there, Thomas “Sencler”, as the name is spelt; but more than the general connection of blood cannot be asserted. In Riley's Memorials of London and London Life in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth Centuries there is a “Petition of the Hostelers and Haymongers” to the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen against the freedom of trade taken by foreigners who paid no taxes, municipal or national, and yet landed hay, to undersell and ruin Englishmen. This was in 1 Edward III (1327). It was agreed that the foreigners should be allowed to sell only in shiploads, not in bottles, and a commission was appointed, two to act on water and four on land, to see that this protection should be afforded. Thomas Sinclair was one of those who watched the land proceedings, which would require most attention. One of the sheriffs of that year was Roger Chantecler, which is probably another form of spelling the name. In 1315 Sir John de Pulteney or Pounteney was mayor, and it will be seen that he had close connections with Sinclairs, who were as busy in London's commerce as in England's ruling and landed interests.
John Sinclair of Igtham died in the year when Thomas Sinclair appears thus in the records of the “city”. This John of Igtham was succeeded by his son, also John of Igtham, till by his heirship to his cousin, the baron, Francis de Aldham, he became John of Aldham, or, as it then began to be called, Aldham-St.Clere. It was the same year, according to Baker, in which he heired both his father and this cousin of his, 1327, and he is certainly registered as twenty-six years of age when heir to Francis. His birth took place in 1301, when Edward I was in the midst of his great wars, if this is correct. But Tindal and his authorities give 1322 as the date of Francis de Aldham's execution, and though not at all a very unusual thing, John Sinclair, his cousin, could hardly have had to wait five years for possession, unless he too may have been rebellious, and did not get his rights till the barons were triumphant over the deposed king. One record, however, mentions him as in actual possession in 1326, which was before his father's death, of Brambletye, in Sussex, as heir of Francis de Audham, who had been holding it of the crown by knight's service as of the honour of Aquila, one of the great baronies then in the hands of the king. The Norman family from Aquila had been dispossessed; and Francis of Audham's position as baron, is further illustrated by the fact that he held of this honour, as well as the fifteen knights' fees of the honour of Mortayne, besides his own demesnes.
John of Igtham had land in Sussex, but the bulk of his son's property in that county came from his cousin Audham, and he got possession of the whole Audham barony soon after 1322, in his father's lifetime. He was born earlier, therefore, than 1301, and about 1296 is the date. Their original local name of Igtham stays with several subsequent to these two Johns, and at the same time they get mentioned as of Aldham and Aldham-St.Clere, the lineage names luckily appearing in all the instances. Henceforth Sussex has much to do with them. In the subsidy of 7 Edward III, (1333-4), this John, heir of Francis Audham, pays double of any other in that county. He and his wife Alicia were in 1339 challenged by Quo Warranto in Northamptonshire for the privilege of free warren they took in connection with their estate there of Wodepreston, and by proving that John Sinclair, his father, rightly possessed the same, it was confirmed also to them. As this was an Audham property, and was in the actual possession of his father, John Sinclair of Igtham, here is further proof that Tindal and his authorities are right as to the earlier date of the death of Francis Audham. His aunt's husband had immediate possession, and this may explain fully the few years between, before the cousin, his aunt's son, came into these lands. But the question is one of piquancy more than of importance; the facts become the same so far as the change of large property from the one branch to the other of the lineage is concerned.
The Calendars of Inquisition after Death begin to be of the greatest use about this time, throwing much light on the men and women having properties in land. This John Sinclair died in 1335, on either of the above reckonings a comparatively young man; and the list of his properties will help to illustrate his own, his father, and his cousin Francis of Audham's positions to useful extent. The record, translated from the Latin in which it is, reads:
‘John, the son of John Sinclair (de Sco Claro), Chiselberg manor with the fief pertaining to it, West Chinnock manor, Penne, the fief Chilterne, Dumere, and Michell Weston, Norton manor, near Taunton, all in Somersetshire; Wodepreston in Northamptonshire; Beustede manor with additions, Hampshire; Aldham manor, Lullingstone, Kemsing manor, in Kent; Jevington manor with its members, namely, Brambeltye manor with additions. Heighten manor, and Lampham manor, and as from the castle of Pevensey, Willingdon hundred, part of Rype, two-thirds of Torring manor, two-thirds of Excete manor, Lavertye, and in the manor of East Grinstead the lands and tenements of Newborne, all in Sussex; Preston-Parva manor in the county of Northampton’.
In the Rolls of the Court of the Treasury there is an entry of a John de Seintcler, senior, making a money settlement with John de Chigehull about the manor of Wolveston, Derby; but he and the junior John are presumably descendants of Ralph of Nottingham and Derby, the eldest son of Hubert, the ambassador to Edward the Confessor. It must not be forgotten that one writer says that “Wolveston manor with its pertinents” was in Hampshire, at Southampton; and he mentions John of Kent as being in possession of it by heirship 2 Edward III (1329), which seems the true account. He probably gave it away before his death to his Hampshire relations, since it does not appear in his list of properties then. Of John of the Calendars of Inquisition there are two entries from these rolls of the treasury which are their own evidence. Under “Wall”, which included some of the western counties now within England's borders, this notice of the heirship of the Audham part of the above lands comes:
‘The king took homage of John, the son of John Sinclair, blood-relation and heir of Francis of Aldham, for all the lands and tenements which the same Francis held’. This is of as much enlightenment about lineage as property, but it has to be remembered that it refers only to all the lands inherited in the parts then called Wales. Some of the lands in England proper went to other heirs, as well as to John Sinclair.
The following from the same rolls would go to show so:
‘And it was declared that the said John Sinclair recognised that the said Francis of Aldham held the manor of Wodepreston from the king by the service of middle fee of one knight, the manor of Chiselberg with its pertinents by the service of one military fee as from the honour of Moretayne, and the manor of Brambeltye as from the honour of Aquila by the service of middle fee of one soldier’. John Sinclair may have heired more than these manors from Francis, for they are but a portion of his many fees. He must have divided his baronial possessions to others besides John, and there is the further probability that the crown on his execution for treason seized and kept a large share. It is thus that gifts to John's son are noticeable, as will appear hereafter.
Lavertye manor is known to have been in the hands of the Montacutes in the thirteenth century, who became earls of Salisbury for aid to the valorous seizing by Edward III in 1330 of Roger Mortimer, earl of March. Roger was the favourite of his mother Isabella, queen of Edward II. Her son with his party got entrance into Nottingham Castle by a subterraneous passage still called Mortimer's Hole. Isabel Montacute married Francis Aldham's grandfather and brought Lavertye to the Aldhams. John Sinclair was in possession of it at death, and yet it is not mentioned in this roll; so that the account is only incidental to three of the many manors he held from all sources.
The last John was not the least important of the trio. A quotation from the twenty volumes upwards of Sussex Antiquities may introduce him. 'St Clere - Proof of the age of John, son and heir of John de Seintcler, deceased, taken at Chichester on Monday after the Annunciation, 25 Edward III (1351). The deponents say that he was born at West Whittering, and baptized in the church of St.Peter there on Palm Sunday, 27 March, 2 Edward III, (1328). John de Polyngfold, Alice, widow of Sir Nicolas Gentyl, knt., and William de St.George were his sponsors. Robert de Bromer recollects the day, because a dispute which had for a long time existed between him and John de Seintcler, the father, was on that day settled in the church and enrolled in the missal. Born thus at the beginning of Edward III's reign, he lived through its eventful fifty years, and died 12 Richard II (1389) aged 61.
The following notes, chiefly from the Archaelogica Cantiana, throw some further light on the Aldhams and Sinclairs: - Margery de Peckham [nee Aldham] had a sister and coheir named Isolda in 1347. This sister was the wife of John St.Clere, and paid aid for land in Igtham when the Black Prince was knighted. The land is described as a moiety of a knight's fee, which Christina de Kirkeby and the heirs of Nicolas de Cryel held in Igtham from the archbishop. It is recognised by Ciriac Petit as being the manor of Igtham or The Mote. The inquisition after death of William Inge states that he and his wife, Isolda Inge, acquired from Nicolas de Cryel the moiety of Igtham manor. These facts suggest very strongly that Isolda Aldham, Isolda Inge, and Isolda St.Clere meant the same person, who may have married John St.Clere after the death of William Inge, who was chief justice of the king's bench in 1316, and had been married first to Margaret Grasenel, and second to Isolda Aldham. The Cryels or Kyryels were settled in Hadlow, near Yaldham of Wrotham, and about 1680 Thomas Cryel married Mary, one of the distinguished Kent and Lincolnshire family of Dalison, whose seat in the southern county has been Hamptons, Tunbridge, three miles from The Mote, Igtham.
The assizes of Sussex county were held at Horsham, now known as Shelley's birthplace, sometimes at Chichester, and oftenest at East Grinstead, where Sir John resided most. On the manor of Lavertye, East Grinstead, Cooper says he had his park; and his public connections with Sussex would make it appear that it was as much his home as Aldham-St.Clere, in Kent. In 50 Edward III (1377) he became sheriff of Sussex and Surrey. He and his family were in very particular relations to the spirited and generous queen of Edward III, Philippa, she who took David, king of Scots, prisoner at the victory of Neville's Cross, near Durham, and who in the same year, 1347, obtained the pardon of the six doomed burghers at Calais from her husband.
Under Sussex, Edward III, of the Rolls of the Treasury this comes:
‘The king confirmed the grant which Philippa, the queen of England, the very dear consort of the king, made to John Sinclair, chevalier, of her manor of Maresfield, which is from the honour of Aquila, together with the king's park in the same place, the town of Grinstead, and the keepership of her forest of Ashesdoune, and her other properties in the county of Sussex, to be held to the end of her life, returning thence annually thirty pounds to his lady, the queen, for the military fees. These properties, extending widely between East Grinstead and Lewes, remained for his descendants, being expressly mentioned as belonging to his grandson in 1408; and the probabilities are all but certainties, that the queen pledged them for money received in that very expensive reign’.
Nor is this the only transaction which indicates the mutual helpfulness of ruler and ruled in this connection. After forty-two years of happy marriage Queen Philippa died in 1369, and in the Issue Rolls of the following year, the lord high treasurer of England, the bishop of Exeter, whose crook had perhaps as well been guiding the sheep as raking money tables, pays to Richard, earl of Arundel, in Sussex, £1377, 14s. 6d. by order of the king for relief of Philippa's soul. Of this, at that period, large sum £100 was due to the earl himself, and to Mary St.Clere “20 marks altogether”. Mary was the daughter of Sir John Sinclair of Grinstead, and this is not all that is known of her. Like her father, she had been a favoured friend of Philippa, and the scene of gift is Essex:
‘The king confirmed the grant which Philippa, the queen of England, the very dear consort of the king, made to her maid-of-honour, Mary Sinclair, of all the lands and tenements which were those of William de Teye, in the town of Havering-at-Bowre, in the county of Essex, which fell lately into the hands of the king as escheat, and called Markdiche, which are to be held to the termination of her life’.
The prevalent French has a noticeable effect on the Latin, and it is further noteworthy, that the words of the grants to the lady and her father are suggestively similar. In Rymer's Foedera a letter from Pope Eugenius in 1147 shows that Teia was part of the lands of Hubert Sinclair, the king's chamberlain, one of the Norwich family; for he gave land from it to the church of Algate intra muros, London. Mary therefore had lineage claims to succeed William of Teye, though it is impossible to trace them now. Royal free gifts were very rare indeed in English history, apart from relationships, and above all in the times of the expensive French wars.
But Sir John's affairs were not only in the home counties. From Somerset an example has survived:
‘The king has committed to John Sinclair the custody of one messuage, one garden, sixty acres of land, and seven acres of meadow, with the pertinents, in Estham, in the county of Somerset, which belonged to Letitia, who was the wife of William Sinclair of Kingswood, dead, for the heir of Nicolas Seymour, dead, who is within age, to hold them up to his legitimate age, rendering from them to the king forty shillings per year and doing service’. The nearest relation had the right to this kind of custody, all other things equal; and these Sinclairs of Kingswood, Somersetshire, are a younger branch of Sir John's line.
Before William it was Thomas Sinclair of Kingswood, and in the right of his wife, Juliana Pipard, he had lands also in Gloucestershire, as appears from the following charter in Latin of the “additional charters” preserved in the British Museum:
‘Thomas Sinclair of Kingswood and Juliana his wife get possession from Walter, the son of Thomas Pipard of Salisbury, of their lands in the town [district] of Durham, in the county of Gloucester, the dowry of the said Juliana, who was formerly the wife of the said Thomas Pipard’. The date of this writing is 39 Edward III, 1365, and a portion of red seal remains. There is another connected survival, namely, the letters to his attorneys by this Walter to see to the settlmg of the claim.
Having wealth of money and lands, Sir John seems also an adept in the state and county business of his time; and he made valuable additions to what patrimony he received. Another of his daughters, Margaret, married Sir William Walleys of Glynd, long since an extinct Sussex family, and heired by the lords Morley. Mrs. Gladstone of Hawarden Castle is a Glynd, and may be a financial offshoot from the landed Walleyses of Glynd. It would be a more curious thing, if the Scot of Scots should, on close investigation, turn out to be a most energetic but unfortunate Norman of this Sussex ilk, the heroes beyond the Tweed being almost invariably Anglo-Norman. The suggestion, however, is dangerous enough to raise a new war of independences.
Why Mary Sinclair heired the Teyes might be a question of interest, if her heirship were anything else than the gift of crown property. Henry Teye was executed at London in 1321, at the same time and for the same reason as Francis Aldham, when Edward II and the Despensers got the advantage of the barons; but the estates did not then come into the king's hands, for William de Teye was the antecessor of Mary. There is a Sir Robert Tey or Teyes in English history later than Mary as one of the commissioners for the commons in the parliament of Shrewsbury, 1398, a king's favourite; but the property of Havering Bower which she got from Queen Philippa, is again in the crown during and after the time of Richard II. It was in 1397 a seat of this king. Here he came, on a pretended hunting excursion, to entrap his uncle the duke of Gloucester in the basest possible way. Froissart tells the tale of how he left his seat of Havering Bower, near Rumford, in Essex, and came on a quasi visit at five o'clock of a summer's afternoon to the castle of Plessy, his uncle's dwelling, as it once had been Margaret Sinclair's (the countess of Essex, William Mandeville's lady), as it was her son's (Geffrey Mandeville), and that of several constables of England. After supper the duke was to go with him to London for a supposed council, but on coming towards the end of Epping Forest, King Richard galloped in front, leaving him to be seized by an ambush under the earl-marshal, Thomas Mowbray. But this is public history. Mary's care put Havering Bower into good enough shape for a royal seat. She was the immediate previous possessor. Her court experience may have kept royal acquaintance fresh as to her Essex home, so that unlike her father she did not transmit to her own friends. In 1437 Joan of Navarre, Henry IV's queen, died there. Sir John Sinclair was married to Mary, the widow of Sir Roger Bellers. There is a notice of Sir John and his wife Mary holding jointly in 1386 inter alia Brambletye and Lavertye, her death taking place in 1390, the year after her husband's. Their son was Philip, who may be called Sir Philip St.Clere, the elder, of Igtham, to distinguish him from his own second son, Sir Philip of Burstow, in Surrey, and from the son of his eldest son Thomas, Philip, the second of Igtham.