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ROBERT, NICOLAS, AND JOHN

Morant says that in 1301 Robert de S.Claro or St.Clere possessed the manor of St.Cleres in East Tilberry, which was of the extent of one knight's fee, held under Bohun, earl of Hereford. To him also came the manor of St.Cleres, Danbury; but it is impossible to fix what relation he was to William its former possessor, called the lord of Danbury Park, the sheriff, whether son, nephew, or further. There was no want of heirs to any of the name at that time and place, and this implies nearness. His executor, Simon, the son of John, was probably of his lineage in the Northampton connection. His son's wife leaves money to Robert de Sancto Claro.

Hasted in his History of Kent mentions that Robert held Merston in that county in the reign of Edward I, and that it was one knight's fee held from Warin de Montchenzie. It is he who is a witness with Hugo de Windsor, vicecomes Kanciae, Henricus de Gren, and others to a charter by Henry of Cobham to Rochester see.

But there is earlier, and entirely trustworthy, knowledge of Robert Sinclair in the Placita de Quo Warranto of 21 Edward I (1292), com “Kanc”. This is eight years before the notice of him as at East Tilbury. Near Rochester on the north side of the Medway, Hoo is, and of it the abbot of Reading monastery had part or whole, which the king's justice de quo warranto, challenged as belonging to the king. Robert of Higham and Robert de Sancto Claro, milites, and neighbouring proprietors, were of the jury to settle the question.

But this is only one of a series of such transactions for Robert. These two are part of a jury about Peeche being the property of Lesnes Abbey. The prior of Canterbury had to answer as to his rights over Estrie, which is one of the furthest to the north-east of the holdings in Kent of Adamus, filius Huberti, in the record of Domesday Book, near Sandwich and Deal. The abbot of St.Catherine's, Canterbury, was challenged to show his right to the advowson of the church of Selling. If this is Cellinge or Cowling, the church of which had Adam Pincerna for its first patron, Robert ought to know its history well, being in his own special angle of Kent, and at one time, if not then, on his or his family's lands. He is one of the jury sworn, and supports the abbot's right to it; and he must have, from his influence and knowledge, largely aided the abbot to prove his right, which he did, and was established in it. Something closer to his family history still, appears when he is one of a jury who support the right of Henry de Grey to the manor of Eylesford with its pertinents.

Unlike many of that period, Henry has a charter to meet such challenging, which was given to his grandfather Richard; but he is none the worse of the aid he gets from Robert de St.Clair, who knows both sides of the Medway as only traditional memories of the noblest kind can inspire. As “Sir Robert de Seynt Cler” he is once again engaged in these Quo Warranto troubles in connection with the manor of East Chalk, Kent, which had and has many associations with the name he bore. This is the Celca which Adam Sinclair, commissioner of The Domesday Book, holds in that record, as he holds likewise the above Colinge, Bicklei, and the Hegham still in Sinclair possession, all of Maidstone hundred.

Hubert Sinclair, the hero of Bridgenorth Castle, gave part of it to the monks of the famous monastery of Bermondsey, Southwark, London, as an extant Harleian charter shows. His daughter's son, William of Langvale or Longueville, confirmed his gift. The husband of his daughter Hawyse, Sir John de Burgh, son of Hubert de Burgh (Shakespeare's “gentle Hubert”, who could not kill Prince Arthur at the tower, and whose honours and glories would burden a Spaniard to bear) and of Margaret the king of Scotland's daughter, gave the rest of the manor of Chalk to the monks of Bermondseye. Here Edward I by his judges is challenging the prior of St.Saviour's, Bermondsey (a church since noted by being the marriage-scene of James I of Scotland and his love of the King's Quhair) to show right to the manor and its pertinents.

With Sir Robert's aid on such a question only one conclusion could be arrived at, namely, that the prior's right was inviolable; but it serves to show the eagerness with which this hated search after flaws of title to lands was pursued, that so remarkable a property as this did not escape querying. Sir Robert had three milites as his companions in getting to their conclusion by jury in the prior's favour.

After two hundred and seven years, this Sinclair still possesses some of the commissioner's property as described in The Domesday Book; and his brother Nicolas took his local name from Oare in the Faversham hundred, of which Adam entered himself as possessed, holding it from Odo, the bishop of Bayeux. There is hardly a place in the whole sweep of Kent, except perhaps the extreme north-east, which at some time has not had associations with the name as holding land; but the Medway to wide extent on both sides was always the favourite district.

Both Sir Robert and Nicolas appear together in another of the transactions in the Placita de Quo Warranto. Ralph, the son of Bernard, one of the Fitz-Bernards so distinguished in the Irish Conquest and by state offices, gave a charter to Radulph Pincerna, and Ralph is challenged to show his title to Kingsdene, Otterdene, another of Adam Sinclair's holdings in The Domesday Book. The charter was of Henry II's time, when the Fitz-Bernards were at their height; and this possessor surely is fully entitled to what he has. The result was that Ralph had more right than the king to Kingsdene, Otterdene.

Both Robert de Seincler and Nicolas Sinclair of Ore appeared in favour of their relation, Ralph Pincerna. He is of the eldest line, and heirs Hugo Pincerna's office, though less is known of him than of them. Offices grew obsolete, and he became founder of some of the Kentish Butlers in all probability, and in this name-dress they are no more to be followed with certainty. They might be the Butlers of West Wickham, once held by Adam, the commissioner, which property rich Sir Samuel Lennard held after, progenitor of an earl of Sussex, and related to the lords Dacre. They seem the Butler earls of Wiltshire.

The latest notice there is of Robert Sinclair has to do with Essex. The abbot of St.Ann's, Colchester, has to get “the concurrence of the whole convent”, before some transaction about land can be completed. This was 3 Edward II (1310); and like his time, he would then be making provision for his soul in the prospect of death. There was a St.Cleres manor near Colchester which was in his possession.

Of Nicolas some further reliable items have survived. His name Nicolas was frequent among the Pincernas or Botelers, which is some aid to reflection; and the remarkable Fitz-Nicholases of several reigns, dapifers and other similar state officers, look in the same direction for origin. Hasted says that Great Okely and Little Okely were held by William Sinclair in 1279 from Montchesney and the bishop of Rochester, and that soon after these estates were possessed by different branches of this family. Great Okely he says descended to Nicolas Sinclair, and after some time Little Okely also became his.

In 20 Edward III (1347) Little Okely was possessed by John Sinclair, who paid aid for making the Black Prince a knight in that year. Rev. Thomas Cox, the antiquary, in Magna Britannia, says that this John held them united, and that he also held Merston manor, and a quarter of knight's fee in the same district as from Swanscombe Castle of the Montchesnies. They had other properties, like Oare, in Kent; but John came also into possession of the Essex properties, being holder of them in 1334.

Great Okely was some time in the possession of Walter Neale of London, a relation of the wife of Nicholas. It finally left the Sinclair name with John's life, but on what ground is obscure. In Berry's MS. Genealogies of Kent he was married to Elizabeth Colepepper, daughter of Sir Anthony Colepepper of Bedgeberry. Her mother was Constantia Chamberlain, daughter of Sir Robert Chamberlain, Sussex. It was to Sir Richard Chamberlain that Margaret Louvaine, the wife of Sir Philip Sinclair of Burstow, was previously married; but that was not the first tie of afiinity between the families. Were it not too easy an inference, the stronger tie of consanguinity might be suggested, in connection with Richard Sinclair, of Hastings fame, the king's chamberlain.

It will throw light back over much that has been hinted of this kind, if a passage be given from the General History of the Kings and Queens of England by Francis Stanford, Lancaster herald, with additions by Samuel Stebbing, Somerset herald, and published in 1707, when such subjects were closely searched after. The authority of two specialists besides, cannot but be weighty. ‘In The Domesday Book in the exchequer, surnames (so termed by the French because they were superadded to the Christian name) are first found, and were brought from France to England by the Normans who not long before took them: many of which were noted with de such a place of their habitation, as, Alberic de Vere, Walter de Vernon, Gislebert de Venables; or with filius, as Gulielmus filius Osberni, Richard Fitz-Gilbert, and Robert Fitz-Hamo (the father of this Mabel who being Frenchified looked upon it as a high disgrace to take a husband without his two names); several also taking surnames from their offices, as Eudo Dapifer, Gulielmus Camerarius, Herveus Legatus, Radulphus Venator. There may not be much more than impression in this, and it certainly cannot be pressed in respect to those sirs Chamberlain of Oxford and Sussex.

Sandford's reference in parenthesis to the daughter of Fitz-Hamo, Mabel or Matilda Sinclair, is in relation to his quotation of the rhymes of the chronicling Robert of Gloucester, who puts them into the mouth of the lady when sought in marriage by Robert, the son of King Henry Beauclerc, his suing being ultimately successful: ’

‘Sir, sheo said, well ich wote your hert upon me is,
More for myne heritage, than for my self, I wis;
And such heritage as ich have, hit were to me grete shame,
To take a Lord but he liadde any surname:
Sir Robert le Fitz-Hayme my Faders name was … ’

and so on goes the lively monk for pages, making all happy at the end like a good-natured modern novelist. There cannot be a doubt that many of our noblest surnames took their origin from offices, though perhaps Sandford could have missed Dapifer as a good illustrative example.

The Colepeppers were a remarkable family of Kent and Essex. In 1321 Thomas Colepepper was governor of the castle of Leeds, in Kent, when Edward II deceitfully attacked it in his quarrel with the barons. Having taken it he hanged the governor and his officers. This misfortune made the fortunes of a family who appear frequently in subsequent history. Berry says John St.Cleere, married to Elizabeth Colepepper, died without issue. The families are again knit in friendly bonds, as will show by degrees.

There is a John Sinclair of Hardaness, Kent, who had close relations to Hethe and various localities near; but it would be difficult to identify him. He is mentioned frequently in the Report of the Historical MSS. Commission, especially in connection with the endowment of a chapel of St.Clare on Hardness property. This is the Upper and Lower Hardres of the present, quite close to Canterbury.

There was a William Sinclair also holding property in Essex, but nothing genealogical can be made of him, only one scanty note surviving of his life. It is extant in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, among the codices manuscripti of Roger Dodsworth, vol. XXX. ‘Charter between William Sinclair and John Sutton, knight, concerning the advowson of the church of Tendring, made at Colchester’. Its date is 2 Edward III (1329) and if William was a clergyman he need not further be referred to, the lineage then being able to supply a number of such, though now so few. The above description of the charter, however, would imply proprietorship, and the district is recorded as some time afterwards in the hands of the Tilbury people.

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