Some months ago I posted an article concerning the possible whereabouts of Newbury Castle.
Akashic research, including some imperative and forthright input by its builder, John Marshal, had strongly suggested that the site was at Speen just outside Newbury.
I've been doing some digging around to see if the Marshals had any connections with Speen beyond the mention of the market William Marshal granted himself there in 1218 and I have come up with some very interesting data about the Marshals and Speen.
It turns out (to my great excitement) that Speen was indeed a Marshal property prior to 1218, but the quandary now is - when did it become theirs? That's my current jigsaw puzzle.
There is an interesting reference to Speen and the Marshals dated to 1270. (See Round, King's Serjeants, page 90) It says that Hamstead (Now Hampstead Marshall) and the grange at Speen were held by the Marshals by right of the service of the Marshal's rod. A grange was an agricultural outpost - 'a farmhouse with its stables and other buildings.' This gives me a frisson because in a session, John had described the castle site as having an old farmhouse, stable and buildings as well as the defensive fortress.
Service of the Marshal's rod means that the lands went with the job of being a Marshal. Now, while the dateline of the comment is 1270, the Marshal's hereditory lands had been fixed long before this time and it's highly possible that Hamstead and the grange at Speen had been held by the Marshal family for several generations. We know that Gilbert Marshal passed the rod on to his son John, 'my' John, builder of the lost castle at 'Newbury'. We know that John's son, John inherited the rod and in his turn passed it on t0 his brother, the great William Marshal. From there it went one after another to all the Marshal sons until the last one died, then to the eldest daughter, Matilda, and from her to her son Roger Earl of Norfolk. As a sideline, it's interesting to note that the job of Marshal was much coveted and John and his father had to fight a contest for the Marshalsea from Henry de Venoix and William de Hastings. An extant charter of King John relates to this incident. I can find nothing to say that Venoix or Hastings had any connection with Speen or Hamstead Marshal though. Click on the picture to enlarge the text.
But that's not the only connection to Speen and the Marshals. Here follows a story and a puzzle. When William Marshal gave shelter to the outlawed William de Braose in Ireland in 1208, King John was angry with him for sheltering an enemy, but William replied that 'Ge vos di ge n'ai caienz nul traitor, mes j-ai herbergie mon seignor, si comme faire le deveie.' 'I tell you that I keep no traitor here. What I have done is to give lodging to my lord, as was my duty.' Historians have long puzzled over why William should say this of de Braose. What was de Braose his lord for? The answer may be Speen. Speen itself was once owned by Bernard de Neufmarche, who was William de Braose's grandsire. We know in 1166-67, William de Braose rendered one mark in payment at the exchequer for lands at Speen. His daughter Sybilla, married a baron called Adam de Port, and their daughter then married John Marshal's eldest son, also called John. There is a suggestion that Speen came into the Marshal fold at this time as a dower portion. So already there's a tangle of conflicting evidence. It certainly gives credence to the Marshal/Braose connection. Speen seems to have consisted of several manors, including Woodspeen and Speenhamland, so perhaps the Marshals were consolidating the area. When all of William Marshal's sons had died without issue, the lands were divided among the daughters and Matilda, the eldest daughter, inherited the main manor at Speen while her sisters received other portions.
It is interesting too that early in the 13th Century, William Marshal Junior, enfeoffed one Thomas Basset with £10.00 worth of land in his manor of Speen. The Basset's were Marshal kin by marriage, John Marshal (my John) having once been married to Aline, whose offspring from her second marriage, went on to marry into the Basset line.
The church for Speen is that of St Mary The Virgin. On its own website http://www.achurchnearyou.com/speen-st-mary-the-virgin/ it says:
'It is a medieval church built on Saxon Foundations, and was the mother church of Newbury. In 1086 it was recorded in the Domesday Book. The church stands about 200 yards from where I purport the castle site to be and I found it interesting that the church is claimed to be the 'mother church' of Newbury. Built before the others were built. The Marshals have a connection with this church. There are several charters listed in the cartulary of Sandford Priory.
For example from 1206:
Uniuersis etc Willelmus Marescallus comes Penbr salutem Nouerit uniuersitas uestra me concessisse etc deo et beate Marie et fratribus militie Templi Salomonis intuitu caritatis et pro salute anime mee et Isabelle uxoris mee et puerorum meorum et antecessorum omnium et successorum meorum in liberam et puram et perpetuam elemosinam ecclesiam de Spenes cum omnibus ad eam pertinentibus et omnibus libertatibus suis habend et tenend et in usus proprios perpetuo possidendam Et ut etc Hiis testibus Edwardo abbate de Nottel
My Latin is pretty terrible, but basically it's a salutation from William Marshal giving the proceeds of the church at Speen to the Templars for his soul, for the soul of his wife, Isabelle and for the souls of their ancestors and their heirs.
Recent trawling has turned up a mention in the Pipe roll of 1199 referencing William Marshal and Speen. 'Et in perdonis Willelmo Marescallo dim.m. de wasto qod exigebatur ex eo in terra sua de Spienes per breve R. I'm still working on the translation of this one, having only just found it, but I'll get there.
None of this proves that there was a castle at Speen, but it does add to the circumstantial evidence. The Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal tells us that John Marshal built a castle at Newbury. But no one knows where it is. Speen, on the outskirts, with its commanding views over the landscape and strategic roads would have been an ideal place. The church, within short walking distance has been there since Saxon times. The Marshal presence at Speen from the late 12th century is confirmed by pipe roll evidence and then charters - evidence I didn't know about until now. It's a slow, laborious process, but nothing turned up so far detracts from the idea that Newbury Castle was at Speen, and indeed, in a peripheral manner, supports the argument.
If I dig up any more details, I'll post them.
For those who have lasted the distance to the end of the blog...
I have a note about my interview with Sharon Penman. Her publishers have asked if I will post the interview in August to coincide with the paperback of Devil's Brood. I'm happy to do that, but to say that the wait will be a little longer now!