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WILLIAM, SON OF HUGO PINCERNA

It is now returned to the other branch of the same lineage, whose chief estates at first were in Kent, and particularly in the lower part of the valley of the Medway, till it enters the Thames at Sheerness. In the person of Hugo de St.Clair the stock was left, the lord of Aeslingham in the reign of Henry II whom Thomas Becket singled out as one of his chief enemies, and whom, as one of the king's ministers, he had excommunicated. Hugo was shown to have been nephew to Hamo St.Clare, the dapifer; and Ralph of Ingulstadt in the X Scriptores, or X Chroniclers, gives his name in full as one of those who signed Stephen's charter to the kingdom in 1136. How he was related to Walter of Medway, father of Richard, king's chamberlain, of whom Thomas of Grinstead who died in 1435 was last landed descendant in Kent and Sussex, has also been indicated. Hugo was of the Hamoes, earls of Corboil, lords of Thorigny, lords of Granville, lords of Gloucester and Glamorgan, in direct succession. Walter of Medway, earl of St.Clere, was brother to Hamo, the father of Hamo Dapifer, viscount of Kent, and of Robert Fitz-Hamo, “knight of Rye”, lord of Thorigny, Gloucester, and Glamorgan. It is thus that Hugo de St.Clare or Hugo Pincerna stood connected with those whose doings have just been described.

How Hugo Pincerna got, with many other estates, seven knights' fees of Eudo Sinclair the dapifer's lands, is explainable by similar relationship, which has already had treatment. The purpose was to follow from that twelfth century the successors of his branch, as far as knowledge could be got of them by considerable but by no means exhaustive search, the wealth of English record being not yet available enough. For example, this is an accidental entry rescued from the Great Roll of 1182 which will at once show how well such inquiries as the present might be completed if the whole series of the Great Rolls were under full literary command: ‘Odo de Dammartin accounts for 500 marks for having the custody of the son and land of Hugo, king's butler or cupbearer; In the treasury 200 marks and he owes 300 marks; Great Roll, 28th Henry II’. To have the care of the son and land of Hugo Sinclair, Odo must have been, by marriage, of near affinity. William de Dammartin signed the charter of the earldom of Essex with William de St.Clere, given by Stephen to the second Geffrey de Mandeville; but a much more suggestive fact is that Manasseur de Dammartin held three knights' fees from Walter Sinclair of Medway's twenty, heired from Geffrey Talbot. This appears on the carta of Walter sent to Henry II, of whom Hugo was a favourite minister. Manasseur's son Odo was as neighbour not less than by affinity a fit and proper person to have the wardship of Hugo Sinclair's son, and the management of the lands till he came of age. His, for that period, heavy payment, is sufficient index of the wealth of Hugo Pincerna, the lord of Aeslingham. The scantiness of such happy accident of information leaves much untold. What this son's name was who is thus taken care of would be interesting and valuable.

In the notification upon the dedication of the chapel of Aeslingham in the Textus Roffensis there are Hugo, Philip, and Robert Sinclair, besides Hugo himself and his brother Roger of the name; and if any of these were his son it would be Robert, because Hugh and Philip were monks of Rochester. Probably a minor, which he must have been, could not sign documents, and in that case information is still lacking as to the name of his son and successor. We know that a Robert de Sancto Claro held then two knights' fees from Walter of Medway, and he is in all likelihood the signer, the Clovilles also, similar holders, adding their names. There is a Roger Pincerna in the Textus Roffensls who might be the brother mentioned, but nothing definite can be made of this, though his gift to Rochester of property in Plumstead has some aid of locality.

It is possible that this Roger was of an earlier period altogether, for Morant's History of Essex seems to give the right clue as to Hugo St.Clare's sons under his account of Danbury. The manors of St.Cleres and Heyrons there, were, he says, originally one, and a William Pincerna and Ralph de Heyron, who were brothers, possessed them towards the end of the twelfth century. In Essex Hugo and his successors gained considerable footing, especially opposite their Kent estates on the south side of the Thames. Palgrave's Rotuli Curiae Regis has account of a William at Greenwich engaged on cases of disputed lands. Four milites were usually summoned to elect twelve arbiters for decision. William de Broc is one of the disputants in a case, and William de St.Clare, William of Cloville, and Henry of Coddeham, since known better as Cobham, are some of those who act. William and Simon of Plesingehow require similar decision, and William de St.Clare and Roger of Cheny or Chesney are members of the deciding court, held at Greenwich also.

There is a third case in which William de St.Clare does the same duties at Greenwich. He pays his Essex taxes at Stratford, these rolls having reference to the years 1194 till 1199 in Richard I's reign. From Essex and Hartfordshire he pays in the Rotulus Cancellarii his share for those counties of the ransom for this monarch, 1196, ‘Of the second shield-money for Richard: William Sinclair pays 30s.’. ‘Of third scutage William Sinclair pays 30s. scutage: of his lands and military taxes William Sinclair owes 3 marks from the same’. These scraps are indication of similar doings at other times and in other counties which detailed inquiry could amplify for special purpose. His position is pretty well known by his immediate succession to his father Hugo, though his brothers may have curtailed the patrimony.

A Thomas St.Clare went to the East with King Richard, and died there. He has, however, been claimed for the Aldham St.Clere family on good grounds. Ralph has been referred to as dividing with him the property at Danbury, Essex, where there are monuments still of crusaders of their branch. Morant's general account of the name there has rather more reference to the Kent and Sussex than to the Kent and Essex branch, though it applies to both as to lineage. Says he, ‘The family of St.Clere was of great antiquity in this kingdom: the lord of St.Cler being one of those officers that attended William the Conqueror into England’. He then gives such authorities as the Chronicle of Bromton, and the various other well-known sources of proof of this. It is Hugo de St.Clare he thinks signed the charter of Stephen, though his Essex leanings might be supposed to make him agree with Lord Lyttleton and his authority of the Cottonian MSS., that it was Hamo de St.Clair, the well-known castellan of Colchester Castle, and fee-farmer of that city. But he may only have met with Richard Prior of Hagulstad's Chronicle.

About this William the difficulty is that in King John's time he seems to have lost all his honours, according to the Liber Ruber. He had a park at Danbury, but it is certain that Aeslingham was his usual home. Besides Ralph who got Hesdon, part of St.Clere manor in Danbury, there were two other brothers at least. John, as Palgrave's Rolls from the King's Court show, held a fee from William Munchensi in Kent, as he from the see of Canterbury, and there was considerable dispute about its tenure in this court in Richard's reign. But Dunleia in the county was also his, as the Rotuli Chartarum, 9 and 10 John (1208-9) proves. There is among these rolls a charter of confirmation to Henry of Cobham ‘from the gift and grant of John Sinclair, the whole tenement of John to him at Dunleia’.

About the time of Magna Charta, 1215, John would seem to have come into the position and honours of his elder brother William. It is he who follows John Marescall, the husband of Eleanor Sinclair, as “John, the son of Hugo”, one of the sixteen nobles who advised King John to give the great charter of England's liberties, and whose names are on immortal record at the head of the venerable document. There was no Hugo in England of first magnitude except Hugo de St.Clare to whom John could be son then, the Hugh Bigods always being mentioned as such. Around him the fifteen names are of the sounds most familiar to his lineage, male and female, the Albineys, the Marshalls, the Bassets, Warrene, Fitzgerald, Hugh of Newton or Neville, and Hubert de Burgh. It were almost impossible that some one of the lineage could be out of such a closely-related gathering, for whatever purpose, and the advice Johannis filii Hugonis was altogether in place and keeping with the position of his kin.

But to return to his gift of Dunleia to a Cobham. The Coddehams or Cobhams of the early period are of close relationships with the Sinclairs, whether of like lineage or not; and this would seem further evidence to much already indicated. Sylvester Sinclair appears as the brother of John in signing a document of the Textus Roffensis, but of his lands or doings nothing more has been found. Large dividing must have occurred at this period, the name Sancto Claro being numerous in the records of the district near the Thames, especially on the south side. A Robert signs one of Henry of Cobham's charters to Rochester Church, but the date is not to be fixed, nor can he be said to be another brother of William Pincerna the son of Hugo de St.Clair of Aeslingham. In Dugdale's Monasticon William Pincerna gives Elham to the monks of Rochester, and with regard to the same property King Henry I gave a charter earlier through ‘Hamo Dapifer and his faithful barons of Chent’.

The early history of Danbury and East Tilbury is obscure, but some streaks of light cross over them. This William Pincerna held the former and possibly the latter. Morant in his History of Easex says that the Kameseck or Kewseck family held East Tilbury, and that they also held Camseys and Great Sandford, in Essex. But in describing the manor of St.Cleres, East Tilbury, he says that it was ‘so named from its ancientest owners on record’.

Camseys or Kamseys from which the Kamesks had their name, clearly a local one, was the Camoys Hall which Hamo Dapifer had for one of his residences; and as Hugo de St.Clare was his nephew, he must have heired this also. It was part of the Topefeld which the Bradfield St.Clare family held later. One of Hugo's younger sons is probably the first Edmund of the several who appear in this Camoys line, from whom Lord Camoys who held a command over the Sussex draft at Agincourt must have descended. East Tilbury went certainly for nearly a century out of the possession of William Pincerna and his direct successors, and it was not till Henry III's reign it came back to them, from their friends the Camoys or Kemescks, who appear in a Quo Warranto of Edward I on this very matter.

Danbury and East Tilbury are extremely interesting localities. Danbury is the highest hill in Essex, and was used as the watchtower for London against the Danes, Spanish, and other enemies from the sea. The Danes, from holding it at one of their successful invasions, gave it its name of the “fort of the Danes”. The ruins of this fort are still discernible, and in its centre was afterwards built the church with its three figures of crusading St.Clares so dear to the antiquaries. The mansion of the family was a quarter of mile from this church.

Tilbury is remarkable for Queen Elizabeth's haranguing of her soldiers in expectation of the descent from the Spanish Armada. This scene on the north side of the Thames gradually and finally became the remarkable home of William's descendants, holding, as they did, in Essex greater possessions than in Kent, after some generations. But this will develop gradually as the successors appear.

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