Mis-spelt; it should be, as it is in Duchesne's copy, Escriols, or Criol—a name that appears again on the Roll in its Anglicized form of Kiriell. "It derived from Robert, Count of Eu, whose younger son Robert obtained from him Criol, or Crieul, near Eu. He had been previously in possession of Criol, as appears by one of his charters to the Abbey of Treport (Gall. Christ, xi. col. 13, Instr.)"—The Norman People. In Domesday it is written Cruel. "Robertus Cruel" held Esseborne (Ashburnham) in Sussex of his kinsman the Earl of Eu, who then governed the Rape of Hastings, and I think there can be no reasonable doubt that he was the progenitor of the Ashburnhams. But they themselves claim a remoter ancestry. "My poor and plaine Pen," writes Fuller, with genuine enthusiasm, "is willing, though unable, to add any lustre to this Family of stupendous Antiquitie. The chiefe of this name was Highe Sheriff of Sussex and Surrey, anno 1066, when William Duke of Normandy invaded England, to whom King Harold wrote to assemble the posse Comitatum to make effectual resistance against that Foreigner. The Original hereof, an honorable Heireloome (worth as much as the Owners thereof would value it at), was lately in the possession of this Familie; a Familie wherein the Eminency hath equalled the Antiquity thereof, having been Barons of England in the Reign of King Henry the Third." There is certainly no record of any such barony, and I fear King Harold's writ is not forthcoming either. In point of fact, this Saxon descent rests on the sole authority of Francis Thynne, one of the inventive heralds of the time of Queen Elizabeth, who tells us that "Bertram Ashburnham, a Baron of Kent, was Constable of Dover Castle in 1066; which Bertram was beheaded by William the Conqueror, because he did so valiantly defend the same against the Duke of Normandy." There are, however, various difficulties to be met in this pedigree, in addition to the historical fact that Dover Castle, though styled "the lock and key of the whole kingdom," surrendered to the Conqueror without striking a blow. Bertram's two sons, Philip and Michael, are said to have been also executed; but his grandson Reginald reappears in possession of the estate, as one of the benefactors of Battle Abbey. Now the name of the Saxon owner of Ashburnham, as given in Domesday, was Sewardus, and not Bertram,[1] and there is no evidence to show that the posterity of Robert de Cruel were ever dispossessed. According to the common practice of those days, they styled themselves De Ashburnham, bearing their paternal name conjointly during five or six generations. Thus it seems evident that Reginald de Ashburnham, who bestowed some lands and two salt-works on the monks of La Bataille, and his son Stephen, who confirmed the gift, and sold lands, as "Steven de Cuell" to Robertsbridge Abbey (Mon. i. 916), were in reality of the Norman race that received Ashburnham at the Conquest. Their beautiful domain has been transmitted by direct male descent to the present Earls of Ashburnham, who are probably—though far from admitting the fact themselves—the last remaining representatives of this great baronial house.

Its chief seat was in Kent, where, as Leland tells us, "Creal was a Man of very faire Land, ontylle it felle to be devydid.

"Sum say Folchestone Parke was his, and then it cam to the Clintons. Costinghaungre was Creal's Lordship, of sum now corruptely caullid Westenhanger...

"Certen of the Crealles were honorably biried at S. Radegund.

"Creaulles were greate Benefactors to Houses of Religion in Est Kent, as appereth by their Armes in many Glase-Windois.

"The name of Finiox thus cam ynto Kent about King Edwarde II. Dayes. One Creaulle was a Prisoner in Bologne in Fraunce, and much desiring to be at Liberte made his Keper to be his Frend, promysing hym Landes in Kent if he wold help to deliver him. Whereapon they both toke secrete Passage and cam to Kent, and Creal performed his Promise: so that after his Keper or Porter apon the cause was namid Finiox."

This is one of the families belonging to East Kent of which Mr. Planche remarks that we hear much, and know but little, "although their ancient coats are still to be seen quartered in so many atchievements, and studding the roof of Canterbury Cathedral." The first mentioned is John de Criol, who in 1194 gave the church of Sarres in Thanet to Ledes Priory, and was the father of four sons, Bertram, Simon, William, and Nicholas. Of the three younger we know no more than that Nicholas married a Clifford, and left three co-heiresses; but Bertram, the heir, was a man of note and importance, styled, from his large possessions in the county, the Great Lord of Kent. "Some misdemeanour (it seems) this Bertram had committed, for which in 15 Hen. III. he was commanded to quit the Countrey; nevertheless, by the mediation of friends, he got leave to stay, upon condition he should not come to Court; and the next year following he obtain'd so much credit with the King, that he was then constituted Sheriff of Kent, in which trust he continued until the end of the first half of 23 Hen. III."—Dugdale. He was also Sheriff of Essex and Herts, with the custody of two royal castles, Dover and Rochester, and left three sons, John, Simon, and Nicholas (of whom presently). John, whose wife brought him the manor of Estwell, had a writ of military summons to oppose the Welsh under Llewellyn in 1256, and died in 1262. He, again, had four sons. The eldest, a second Bertram, was splendidly matched with Alianor, one of the four co-heiresses of Hamo de Crevecoeur and Maud d'Avranches, the great heiress of Folkestone, who was dowered with half the hundred of Folkestone and half the manor of Hythe. He forfeited his lands by joining Simon de Montfort, but "made his composition" on the accession of Edward I. He died in 1308, leaving two sons, John and Bertram,[2] who successively died s. p., and a daughter Joan, married to Sir Richard de Rokesley, whose children eventually divided this great inheritance. One married Sir William Baude, the other Walter de Patteshull and Thomas de Poynings, but had a son only by her second husband.

Nicholas, the youngest son of the Great Lord of Kent (according to Planche, for Dugdale names him before his brother), received, like him, a summons to serve against the Welsh in 1256, and six years later was appointed Sheriff of Kent, and Warden of the Cinque Ports, at that time charged with the whole maritime defence of the realm. He was likewise Constable of Rochester. He married the widow of Sir Henry de Sandwich, Joan, sole daughter and heir of William de Auberville, in whose right she was Lady of Westenhanger; and their son Nicholas, having attended Edward I. in his foreign wars, was summoned to Parliament in 1296. But this summons was never repeated to his descendants, though they continued for five more generations. The next heir, Nicholas III., was Admiral of the Fleet in 1324, from the Thames mouth southwards, and "imploy'd by the King to prevent the landing of Queen Isabel and her son Prince Edward, and to infest the French Merchants upon the Western Coasts." The last was Sir Thomas Kiriell (for so the name had now become written), whose fortunes were wrecked with the House of Lancaster. "He was made a Knight of the Garter by Henry VI., but was never installed, and was beheaded in 1461 by order of Edward IV., having been taken prisoner in the fatal battle of St. Albans."—Planche. His only child, Alice, married Sir John Fogg of Repton.

Croxton-Cryol, or Keryel, which had been granted to the first Bertram de Criol by Henry III. in 1242, preserves their name in Leicestershire, though now best known as the property of the Duke of Rutland, and the scene of an annual race-meeting. Several junior branches survived the extinction of the main line, and amongst them was probably the Herefordshire family which gave birth to the "Man of Ross." Their descent is traced from their first settlement in the county in 1295; and the name, then spelt Crull, or Cryll, gradually merged into Kyrle. They bore one of the chevrons of the Criols (though in a changed tincture, and with the addition of three fleurs-de-lis), and were seated at Walford Court, from whence Robert Kyrle, "a stony-hearted rebel," who was a captain of Cromwell's troopers, is said to have bombarded Goodrich Castle during the Civil War. Pope's hero, John Kyrle, was the nephew of this Robert's father, James, High Sheriff of Herefordshire (married to a niece of John Hampden's), and himself the son of a younger brother, who left him only a narrow income:

"Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear,
This man possest—500 pounds a year."

Yet, by thrift and self-denial, he found means to be munificent in good works, and to accomplish, in his 87 years of life—for "he had his hour measured him by a large glass"—all that needed to be done in his native place. How much this was—how far beyond what seemed possible even to his "boundless charity" is a never-ending marvel, and brings home to us all a lesson we should do well to learn.[5]

"Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow?
From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost,
But clear and artless, pouring through the plain,
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?
The Man of Ross,' each lisping babe replies.
Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread!
The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread:
He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state,
Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;
Him portion'd maids, apprentic'd orphans blest,
The young who labour, and the old who rest.
Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,
Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes and gives.
Is there a variance? Enter but his door,
Balk'd are the courts, and contest is no more.
Despairing quacks with curses fled the place,
And vile attorneys, now a useless race."

This noble-hearted man died in 1724.

Walford Court, the family seat, had passed away to the Gwyllyms through a daughter of the rebel captain's in the previous century. A younger brother, of Much Marcle in the same county, was created a baronet by Charles I., but the line expired with his grandson in 1679.

  1. By a strange irony of fate, Francis Thynne selected for his Saxon hero the very un-Saxon name of Bertram, which happened to be an hereditary one in the house of Criol.

  2. Bertram held two of his manors by a singular tenure: "to provide one man called a Vautrer, to lead three greyhounds, when the King should go into Gascoign, as long as a pair of Shoes of Fourpence price would last."—Dugdale.

-- Cleveland

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