Robert de Lacy (1) succeeded his father Ilbert de Lacy probably between 1090 and 1100. As well as inheriting the honour of Pontefract and his share of his father’s lands in Normandy, Robert de Lacy also received the honour of Clitheroe. These lands had belonged to King Edward (the Confessor) in 1066 and consisted of 3½ hides or 21 plough-lands, the remainder consisting of 28 manors, held by 28 freemen or thegns and rated at 73 ploughlands. After the Norman Conquest they were given to Roger de Poitou, along with the honour of Halton, and he sub let them to Roger de Busli and Albert de Greslet. It also seems that some of Roger de Poitou’s lands were held of him by Ilbert de Lacy(1) and when Roger was banished for supporting his elder brother Robert de Belleme, 3rd earl of Shrewsbury, against the king in 1102, the honour of Clitheroe and the lordships of Blackburnshire and Bowland were given to Robert de Lacy (1). Henry I granted ‘Boeland to this Robert, son of Ilbert, to be held of the Crown in capite as it had theretofore been of Roger de Poitou’.
In the early years of the reign of Henry I Robert de Lacy appears to have taken a leading role in maintaining royal authority in the north of England. However, by 1114 he had been dispossessed and was living in exile, probably in Normandy. The reason for this is not clear. It has been suggested that he joined a rebellion against the king that supported Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, but this took place in 1102 when Roger de Poitou’s confiscated lands were given to Robert by Henry I. So what happened around 1114 that resulted in him losing all his English lands? The reason is probably connected with the ongoing problems between England and Normandy. Although Henry had made peace with his brother Robert Curthose, he later invaded Normandy and defeated Curthose at the battle of Tinchebray in 1106. Curthose was taken prisoner and Henry took control of Normandy – except that keeping control of so many volatile land owning lords was never easy.
One lord who presented Henry with problems was Robert de Belleme, the 3rd earl of Shrewsbury and elder brother of Roger de Poitou. His allegiances changed according to his own best interests. He had led Robert Curthose’s reserve army at Tinchebray, but had later made peace with Henry. However, Henry suspected him of plotting a rebellion in favour of Curthose’s son, William Clito, and issued a list of charges against him. When Robert went to the Norman court in November 1112, Henry had him arrested and imprisoned at Wareham, where he remained for the rest of his life.
It was following this that Robert de Lacy lost his English lands and was banished, so my assumption is that he was in some way involved, or suspected of being involved, in Belleme’s plot.
The family of Robert de Lacy (1)
Robert de Lacy’s wife was named Matilda. They had three sons and one daughter. Their eldest son was Ilbert, a second son, Robert, was the only knight to be killed at the Battle of the Standard on 22nd August, 1138, and their third son was Henry de Lacy (1) who inherited from his elder brother, Ilbert. Their daughter was called Aubrey (or Albreda).
The evidence for a son named Robert comes firstly from a charter confirming the grant of St Mary Magdalen in Barnstaple to St Peter of Cluny. Two of the witnesses were Ilbert de Lacy and Robert de Lacy (in that order). If this Robert had been Ilbert’s father he would have signed before him. A younger brother would have signed after him. Another occasion was in Normandy during the reign of Henry I when Ilbert and his brother Robert were accepted at court on one of Henry’s last visits to Normandy. The brothers witnessed a royal charter at Perrieres, in what is now Calvados, not far from the Norman estates of the de Lacy family. Ilbert’s brother Robert is also mentioned in a charter concerning lands in the honour of Clitheroe.
Robert de Lacy (1) also had an illegitimate son named Ralph le Rous (the red). One of the first things that Robert did when he received the honour of Clitheroe was to make a grant of lands to Ralph, in a charter dated 23rd November 1102, which included Great Mitton and from this time Ralph and his descendants took the surname de Mitton. We can be certain that Ralph was a son of Robert’s because when Ilbert de Lacy (2) was confirming his father’s grants following the restoration of the lands in 1135, his charter reads ‘eidem Radulfo fratri meo’ – the same to my brother Ralph. This grant was also made with the consent and advice of ‘my brother Robert’, another piece of evidence for a third legitimate son of Robert de Lacy (1).
There is no date for Robert de Lacy’s death, but he had died by 1129 when Robert de Lisours paid £12.9s.4d to marry his daughter Aubrey (or Albreda). In the Pipe Roll she is described as the sister of Ilbert de Lacy and not the daughter of Robert de Lacy, which she would have been had her father still been living.
Churches and Priories
Robert de Lacy was the first member of his family to found a monastery. He founded the Cluniac priory of St John the Evangelist at Pontefract in 1090, during the reign of William Rufus. The establishment of the priory was for the good estate of the founder and the souls of William I, the founder’s parents—Ilbert and Hawise—and all his ancestors and heirs. His wife Matilda is not mentioned so it seems probable that they were married after this date.
Robert also made a grant of land to a group of hermits who were resident in the woodland around the town of Nostell. He gave half a carucate of land on which the chapel of St Oswald, the king and martyr, stood (or stood afterwards) and two bovates of land in Hardwick which belonged to the church.
There is a story surrounding the foundation of Nostell Priory which tells that Ralph Adelavus, who was a chaplain and confessor to Henry I, was riding north with the king on an expedition against the Scots when he fell ill and had to remain behind at Pontefract. During his convalescence he went out riding and hunting and in the woodlands near to Nostell where he came across a small community of hermits. He was so impressed by their piety that he decided he would like to join them, but first needed the king’s permission. When Henry agreed, he founded the Augustian priory at Nostell becoming the first prior to eleven monks. When Ralph died on the 4th May 1128, he was buried at the ‘Old Place’ – where the old chapel had stood (on the land given by Robert de Lacy) and where the parish church was later built.
It seems probable that Robert de Lacy only gave land to the hermits and did not actually found Nostell Priory. Robert did found the church at of St Bartholomew at Colne and possibly built the stone castle at Clitheroe.
He also built the church at of St Bartholomew at Colne:
And the castle at Clitheroe:
Also see Who Really Built Clitheroe Castle?