Hugh d’Avranches

Chester Castle
Chester Castle, Cheshire
Photo ©, May 2005

Hugh d'Avranches, Earl of Chester in 1070, was King William's nephew, better known as Hugh Lupus. He distinguished himself in suppressing the rebellion against the Welsh in 1068 for which he was rewarded Whitby in Yorkshire which he shortly afterwards gave to William de Percy. In 1071, Gherbad the Fleming, Earl of Chester and brother of Gundrada (wife of William de Warren) having fallen into the hands of his enemies was imprisoned where he endured the sufferings of a long captivity. His Earldom of Chester was granted to Hugh d’Avranches. In the conspiracy against Rufus in 1096 Hugh stood loyal to the King and is accused of barbarously blinding and mutilating his brother in law, William, Comte d’Eu, who had taken part in the conspiracy. He was also accused of committing great cruelties against the Welsh in the Isle of Anglesea which he ravished in conjunction with Hugh de Montgomeri, Earl of Shrewsbury.

Hugh d’Averanches, also went by the name of Hugh the Fat on account of his gluttony, which he indulged in to such a degree that he could scarcely walk. Hugh was a great benefactor to the Abbey at Whitby and restored the ancient Abbey of Werburgh at Chester. Hugh assumed the monastic habit three days before his death in 1101. By his wife Countess Ermentrude, Hugh had one son, Richard who was 7 at the time of his father’s death. Richard d’Avranches married Matilda de Blois, granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Both Richard and Matilda drowned in the fatal wreck of the White Ship in 1119. --

After the 1066 Norman Conquest and the 'harrying of the north', the Normans took Chester destroying 200 houses in the city. Hugh d'Avranches, the first Norman earl (it was first given to a Fleming, Gherbod, who never took up residence but returned to Flanders where he was captured, and later killed) was William's nephew. He built a motte and bailey near the river, as another defence from the Celts. It is now known as Chester Castle and was rebuilt in stone by Henry II in 1245, after the last of six Norman earls died without issue.

Chester's earls were a law unto themselves. They kept huge hunting forests and Hugh was said to have 'prefered falconers and huntsmen to the cultivators of the soil'.

Hugh d’Averanches had endowed a great Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Werburgh in 1092 (on the site of a church of c.660 AD dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, which was moved to the city centre by the Cross where it still stands). The monastery was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1540 and was rededicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary to become Chester Cathedral

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