Sent Martin

From St. Martin in Normandy. "This family descends from Walter, Lord of St. Martin, who about 980 married a niece of Duchess Gunnora. William his son was father of Roger, Lord of Mortemer, and of Ralph, Sire de Garenne, and of the Sire de St. Martin, from whom came the family of St. Martin in Normandy and England."—The Norman People. Notwithstanding the splendour of their lineage, no St. Martin is to be found in Domesday, either as tenant in chief or mesne-lord, though "Le Seigneur de St. Martin" is entered in the list of the combatants at Hastings given by Tailleur in the Norman Chronicle. Roger de St. Martin was Lord of Hempton, Norfolk, in the time of Henry I., and founded a Priory for Black Canons of the Order of St. Augustine, dedicated to St. Stephen. He had been enfeoffed by his kinsman Earl Warrenne, and his descendants continued there till the reign of Ed. II.—v. Blomfield's Norfolk. Was he the same Roger de St. Martin that is mentioned in Richard, second Earl of Chester's confirmation charter to St. Werburgh's? In Essex, Abel de St. Martin has left his name to "the capital manor of Halsted, call'd Abel's, which name is still retained in the Court Rolls. His habitation was on the left hand side of Heningham Lane, in a house still called Abel's, but now very much decayed and mean. His heirs held two knights' fees in Halsted and Belchamp of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, who died 47 Henry III."—Morant's Essex. They bore Sable, six lioncels Or.

Two of the name occur in the Liber Niger: Alured de St. Martin, who held of the Earl of Eu in Sussex: and William de St. Martin, who held of the Abbess of Wilton in Wiltshire. Alured, who appears as a witness to one of Henry II.'s charters, and is frequently mentioned in the Norman Exchequer Rolls, must have had many other possessions besides the solitary knight's fee credited to him in Sussex. He married the widowed Countess of his suzerain, Alice, eldest daughter of William de Albini "with the strong hand," Earl of Arundel, and Queen Adeliza; and in 1176, with his brother Robert, founded the monastery of St. Mary's near Salehurst. Robert then built a bridge over the Rother, which was called after him Robert's Bridge, and gave its name to the new foundation, as well as to the town that grew up around it, always written Pontus Robertus in the muniments of Battle Abbey. The Countess of Eu endowed it with seventy acres of her land. I can find no further mention of the St. Martins in Sussex: but the Wiltshire branch flourished till the latter end of the fourteenth century, and have left their name to Barford St. Martin in that county. They acquired a third part of the barony of Waleran the Hunter through the heiress Joan de Nevill, and held Ulsefeld St. Martin in Hampshire, and part of Bardolveston in Dorsetshire. Laurence, the last heir-male, died an idiot in 1383, and the inheritance passed to his nephew Henry, the son of Sir John Popham by his sister Sibyl. Another sister, Joan de St. Martin, the elder of the two, would appear to have died unmarried.

A romantic story is told of a knight of this family about sixty years before. "On Monday before Ascension Day, 1317," writes Walsingham, one of the greatest heiresses of the kingdom, Alice de Lacy, the only child of Thomas Earl of Lincoln, Constable of Chester, and wife of the Earl of Lancaster, was carried off from her husband's house at Camford in Dorsetshire, "by a certain knight of the house of John, Earl of Warrenne," as was alleged, with the King's assent, and conveyed "in great triumph" to the Earl's castle at Reigate. But, "by the way, the conductors supposing they had seen flags or banners between the hedges and woods of Halton and Farnham afar off (which was nothing but priests in their surplices walking in procession with the people in the fields, according to their custom), were struck with a great fear, thinking the Earl of Lancaster, her husband, had been coming with a power to revenge her injury, and so ran away, leaving the lady almost alone. But the matter being discovered, they returned with threatenings and pomp: with whom there was a low, lame, hulch-back'd fellow, called Richard de St. Martin, who being back'd with great aid, challeng'd the miserably derided lady as his wife." He declared that she had been contracted to him before her marriage with the Earl of Lancaster, and had lived with him as his wife: and although "reputed a most noble lady all her lifetime before," the Countess was forced to acknowledge this to be true. "Whereupon the said Richard, triumphing over her, presumes to challenge the Earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury in the King's Court, as in right of his wife." He certainly did not succeed in establishing his claim in Westminster Hall: and as Camden tells us that Alice de Lacy was only nine years old when she became Countess of Lancaster, the allegation of a previous clandestine marriage is an absurdity. But that she had always been well "reputed," is, on the other hand, a glaring and complete falsehood. She was a woman of notoriously bad character, repudiated by the Earl several years before his death, who "lived in unlawful familiarity with Eubolo Le Strange," her second husband, long before she married him. Singular as it may appear, it seems proven that this little hunchback was a favoured lover, and that the pretended abduction was in reality concerted between them. Dr. Whitaker, in alluding to this "very disgraceful story," adds; "On the authority of a memorandum in Dodsworth's MS., I will mention that the fact which gave rise to the tragedy of Sir John Elland, of Elland, was a fray between the retainers of Earl Warrenne and the husband of this lady, on her account."

In Sir Francis Palgrave's Parliamentary Writs, I find mention of a Henry de St. Martin, Lord of Hollyn, Yorkshire, in 1316: and of a John de St. Martin, who at the same date held parts of the manors of Chilton and Easington in Buckinghamshire.

-- Cleveland

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