Roger  Corbet

Roger Corbet (abt. 1050 - aft. 1122)

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Roger "Lord of Worthen" Corbet aka FitzCorbet
Born about in Pays De Caux, Normandie, Francemap
Son of and [mother unknown]
Husband of — married in Caus Castle, Shropshire, , Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died after in Forden, Shropshire, Englandmap
Corbet-394 created 22 Mar 2012 | Last modified
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The following is from Phillips, Weber, Kirk and Staggs Families of the Pacific Northwest, by Jim Weber,

"Domesday Baron of Cause, formerly Alretone, Shropshire, England, as it was called in Domesday, was born about 1050 to 1056, and died about 1134 as Pagan Fitz John, sheriff and governor of Shropshire, having succeeded Richard de Belmeis, held Cause in 1134, and would not have dared to take it during Roger's lifetime; the castle was destroyed by the Welsh attacking Pagan Fitz John. It had been one of the strongholds along the Welsh border between the rivers Dee and Wye. He married the heiress of Talsey.

"Roger fitz Corbet's largest manor was Worthen, north of Rea Brook: its 14½ hides supported men-at-arms as well as villagers. His other twenty-four manors included Yockleton, Westbury and Wattlesborough to the north and Pontesbury to the east of Worthen; further east lay his brother's chief manor of Longden. The site which later became the caput of the Corbet barony is not mentioned in early records, but it will be as well to review at this point what has been written of Cause - the first known reference to which occurs some fifty years after the Domesday Survey. It has already been pointed out that Corbet was probably associated with the Pays d'Auge. Later documents testify to the presence of the family in that area: holding land at Crocy in Calvados; donating land to the abbey of St-Martin and Ste Barbara at Ste-Barbe-en-Auge. Most accounts of the family follow R.W.Eyton in locating the family in another part of Normandy, the Pays de Caux. Eyton asserts this as a fact, without citing original sources. He was following an idea of J.B.Blakeway, but Blakeway was by no means so definite: "what seems nearly certain is that the family settled in the Pais de Caux." He gives no references for this supposition. The source he uses for an early Corbet lineage, the Histoire du Cambray et du Cambresis par Jean le Carpentier, Leyden 1664, deals with another branch of the family, and there is no reference to the Pays de Caux. What seems to be at work is a wish to derive the place-name Caus/Cause from Caux, without any good evidence.

"Roger Corbet built a border fortress at his Castle at Alfreton which he named Caux Castle after his home domain in Normandy. It was later spelt Cause." [Ref:] < link is dead

"Caus Castle is situated high up on the eastern foothills of the Long Mountain, guarding the route from Shrewsbury to Montgomery in the valley below. It was built by Roger FitzCorbet in the late 11th century and named after his Normandy estate in Pays de Caux. The castle was so important that the Crown took an interest in its maintenance. Henry II had it garrisoned in 1165 and a grant was made towards building work (carried out) by Robert Corbet in 1198. During the late 12th century a town was founded in the large outer bailey. It flourished for a while but later decayed and was deserted by the early 17th century. On the death of Beatrice Corbet in 1347, Caus passed to the Staffords." [Ref: Corbet citing: 'The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire' by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, Wolverhampton, 1988]

"....9 3/4 miles W by S from Shrewsbury. The hill upon which this stronghold stands is 180 feet above the River Rea, flowing at the NW side and the whole of the summit is occupied by the works of Roger Fitz-Corbet. The mount on the SE limit of the site rises 55 feet from the base of the fosse (dry-ditch - John M:20) surrounding it, except at NE on which side is the bailey where the dividing fosse is shallow and extends but half the width of the court. The inner bailey is 30 feet above the fosse which is a continuation of that around the mount but the vallum (earth wall or bank - John M:20) as now seen from the bailey is no earthwork, it is a grass-covered ruin of the masonry which surrounded the entire crest of the court; the remains of a shell keep occupy the summit of the mount and a well within the court - fashioned with dressed stone - ensured a constant supply of water. Around this lofty citadel and its fosse is a vallum varying from 8 feet on the NW side to 18 feet on the SW and 12 feet on the S; girdling the works except on SE where the fosse finds an exit and continues on either side around the outer court. A second fosse and vallum pass from the entrance, on the N, to the S at which point the latter is 20 feet deep and is confined within a bend of the inner and outer vallum, constituting and extremely strong defence. The entrance, on the N, is between an elongation of the vallum and a broad platform which here attains 18 feet in height. Outside the vallum is a low agger about 150 feet long (agger: an isolated length of vallum - John M:20). An extensive court spreads over N and SW area capable of safeguarding herds of cattle, formerly surrounded by an earthen rampart which is now destroyed at the N extremity by farm buildings and a pond. At SW corner is a sunken road with an agger 6 feet high on its W side, leading to the ruins of a massive gateway." [Ref: Corbet citing: Victoria County History]

"Caus has one of the best defensive sites along the whole of the Welsh Border. Steep slopes fall away from both sides of the ridge. The sole relic of the town walls is one side of the base of the Wallop Gate at the SW corner, which has a tree growing on it. The castle itself is overgrown, covered in trees and buried in the debris of its own walls. Extensive remains of the bailey walls and buildings lie under the soil. At the east end are fragments of two large towers, probably D-shaped, flanking a gateway and a large hall can be traced on the south. NW of the hall, at the foot of the mound, is a stone lined well-shaft. The north side of the bailey, facing the town, has a formidable double ditch and rampart system. The motte rises steeply to a height over 12 metres above the ground to the SW. Sett well inside the edge of the summit are the remains of the base of a round tower keep just over 11 meters external diameter but there are no traces of a shell wall as claimed by other writers." [Ref: Corbet]

"In the time of William the Conqueror, the brothers, Roger and Robert, mentioned in Doomsday Book as sons of Corbet, held of Roger de Montgomery divers lordships in the co. of Salop, and were munificent benefactors to the church." [Ref: Burke's Extinct 1883 p136, Corbet, Barons Corbet]

"Roger held of Robert de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, Huelbeck, Hundeslet, Actun, Ternley, and Prestun, all in Shropshire. He left issue, William. "[Ref Burke, John and John Bernard, _Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland_, Scott, Webster, and Geary, London,1841, p. 132, Corbet, of Stoke]

"By the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 the Corbet estates were divided between Roger, the greater share, and his brother Robert. Their place in the list of the earl's tenants, immediately after the sheriff, "corresponds to the extent of their combined estate and their responsible position on an exposed part of the frontier towards Wales. "[Ref: Corbet citing: VCH Salop ii, p.38]

"Roger fitz Corbet's largest manor was Worthen, north of Rea Brook: its 14½ hides supported men-at-arms as well as villagers. His other twenty-four manors included Yockleton, Westbury and Wattlesborough to the north and Pontesbury to the east of Worthen; further east lay his brother's chief manor of Longden." [Ref: Corbet citing: Domesday Book: Shropshire, Chichester 1986: Roger fitz Corbet held 25 manors, his brother Robert 15]

"The original site was not the present ruinous stone castle but another, identified as Hawcock's Mount: "it probably lay within one of the 13 unnamed berewicks of the Domesday manor of Worthen." [Ref: Corbet citing: VCH Salop viii, p.303]

"It might be better to think of Roger fitz Corbet as baron or lord of Worthen, which supported four of his militias; Alretune was also important, supporting five militias - it is now identified as Trewern in Montgomeryshire". [Ref: Corbet citing: VCH Salop viii, p.303]

"While the Corbets, like Picot de Sai and William Pantolf, were leading tenants of Earl Roger, Richard de Belmeis and Rainald de Baillol were among his officers and clerks. Richard de Belmeis was from Beaumais-sur-Dive in the Hiemois, an able man who later became a royal servant and bishop of London. Rainald, the sheriff of Shropshire, had more estates than the Corbets and Picot combined. He may have had a deputy, Fulk, who had manors at Withington and Little Withyford. The earl's steward may have been Ralf de Mortimer of Cleobury, holder of nearly twenty manors and related to William of Warenne, another of the earl's tenants in Shropshire." [Ref: Corbet citing: J.F.A. Mason, The Officers and Clerks of the Norman Earls of Shropshire, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society lvi, 1957-60, pp. 244-257; for Richard de Belmeis see D.N.B.and Eyton, ii, 193-201]

"These men formed the society of which the Corbets were part, perhaps marrying into such families. The grant of land at Impney in Worcestershire to Worcester Cathedral by Roger Corbet and Hugh de Sai and his wife Margaret may indicate some relationship. "[Ref: Corbet citing: Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066-1154 III Regesta Stephani ac Mathildis... ed. H.A. Cronne and R.C.H. Davis, Oxford 1968; no. 964 - confirmation c. 1138 of earlier grants]

"We lack details of even Earl Roger's journeys between Shropshire, Sussex and Normandy, or of the early forays into Wales, so we cannot trace the movements of Roger and Robert fitz Corbet. As followers of the earl, they were probably involved in the incipient rebellion which followed the death of William I in Normandy on 9 September 1087. "[Ref: Corbet]

"Corbet the Norman was dead before 1086: for his son, Roger Fitz Corbet, is the Domesday baron, and built a castle at Alfreton as the head of his honour, which he names Caux, from Pays de Caux, his former home in Normandy. "This was one of the Border castles which, for two centuries after Domesday, served its continuous purposes of aggression and defence." [Eyton's Shropshire.] It stood in a strong position, commanding the pass called the Valley of the Rea; for, as a former marcher fortress, "it was exposed to all the turmoil of a hostile frontier"; and was taken and burnt by the Welsh in the time of his successor. Robert Fitz Corbet, the younger brother, held Longden and Alcester; but his line died out in the following generation, and it is Roger who is the ancestor of the numerous families that have planted the name in the county. He constantly appears as a witness to Earl Roger's charters; and continued the faithful liegeman of his two sons, for he and Ulgar Venator were the only Shropshire chiefs that adhered to the last to Robert de Belesme. He held Bridgnorth Castle for his Earl against Henry I for three months; and it is, according to Eyton "A question" whether he forfeited his estate by his rebellion. His son, at all events, peaceably succeeded to the barony in 1121; and the line continued, without a break, for more than two hundred years after that. These Barons of Caus were assiduous at their arduous post as guardians of the frontier: and an ancient roll that names Robert Corbet among those present with Couer de Leon at the siege of Acre, is discredited by Eyton on the ground (among others) that "a Lord Marcher was little likely to become a crusader," having his hands so full at home." [Ref: Corbet citing: Battle Abbey Roll & Eyton's Shropshire]

"Hugh (son of Earl Roger of Montgomery) succeeded as earl on his father's death in July 1094. Earl Roger was buried in Shrewsbury Abbey, on which occasion Roger fitz Corbet's grant of the church of Wentnor and the tithes of Yockleton was made." [Ref: Corbet citing: Rees, Cartulary, p.39]

"The Corbet allegiance to the Montgomery family involved them once again in rebellion early in Henry's reign, again in support of Duke Robert of Normandy. Henry did not trust Robert of Bellême, earl of Shrewsbury, and had spies reporting on him for a year, during which time the earl asked the Welsh for help and strengthened his castles. In 1102 the king summoned Earl Robert to court to answer charges against him, but he fled to his castles, which the king besieged. Arundel fell first, and Blyth; then the king led his troops "into the province of Mercia, where he besieged Bridgnorth for three weeks", as Orderic recounts. "Robert himself had withdrawn to Shrewsbury and put Bridgnorth castle in the charge of Roger, son of Corbet, Robert of Neuville, and Ulger the huntsman, with eighty mercenary knights under their command." [Ref: Corbet citing: Eccles. Hist. Orderic Vitalis vi, p.25]

"Most probably, it was Roger, not Robert, who was the elder son and heir of Corbet. Roger's name regularly precedes Robert's in the charters which they both witness,[8] and Roger's holdings in Shropshire in 1086 are considerably greater that Robert's (Roger is listed as holding some thirty-five manors containing more than 140 hides, while Robert has only fifteen manors containing 22 hides).[9] In any event, it is clear that it was Roger, not Robert, who was the founder of the barony of Caus, not only because the manor of Caus (_Alretone_) was held by Roger, in Domesday Book,[10] but because Robert died without legitimate male hairs. Robert's barony of Longdon and Alcester was eventually divided between the heirs of his two daughters, "one of whom [Sybil] became the ancestress of the Baronial House of Fitz Herbert, the other [Alice] of the Baronial House of Boterell or Botreaux."[11] (Sybil was also one of the many mistresses of Henry I and was the mother of Henry's illegitimate son, Reginald de Dunstanville, the earl of Cornwall.)[12] It is also clear that while both Roger and Robert held all of their Shropshire lands of the earls of Shrewsbury, it was Roger Corbet who was the friend and close associate of Earl Roger. Roger Corbet was one of the most regular witnesses to the charters of the earl,[13] and when the earl died in July 1094, it was Roger, almost alone of the earl's men, who was moved to make a donation for the good of his soul. (Start quote) When the earl [Roger] was dead and when his body was being consigned to the grave in the church of St. Peter [Strewsbury Abbey], Roger fitz Corbet gave to the monks the church of Nutenore (Wentor] with the tithe of the same vill and the tithe of Jochehulla [Yockleton].[14] (End quote) This close association between Roger Corbet and the earls of Shrewsbury continued under Earl Roger's successors. Between 1094 and 1098 Hugh, the new earl of Shewsbury, confirmed Roger's gift to Shrewsbury Abbey,[15] and Roger often appeared as a witness to Hugh's charters.[16] When Hugh died in 1098, Roger quite naturally became the loyal vassal of the earl's brother and successor, Robert de Bellême; but under this particular earl the relationship between Roger and the earls of Shrewsbury - a relationship which had been the source of almost all of the Corbet's properity and power - was to lead Roger into acute peril. In 1102, Robert de Bellême rebelled against King Henry I, and when Henry appeared in Shropshire with his army, Robert retreated to the stronghold of Shrewsbury. As Robert made his retreat, he left the castle of Bridgnorth - perhaps the greatest castle in Shropshire at this time - in the hands of Roger Corbet and his two subordinates, Robert de Neuville and Ulger the Hunter.[17] Although besieged by "the military force of the whole of England,"[18] Roger managed to hold Bridgnorth for three months, but he was then betrayd by the townsmen of Bridgnorth, who secretly agreed to surrender the town to the besieging army. When Roger and his troops learned of this betrayal, "they fled to arms . . . and tried to render the negotiation abortive," but "the [local] garrison soldiers . . . blockaded them in one part of the fortress and let in the king's troops." At that point, "the king, taking into consideration that [they] had faithfully performed their service to their lord, as was their duty, gave them free liberty to depart with their horses and arms."[19] With the fall of Bridgnorth, Robert de Bellême's rebellion quickly collapsed, and the rebel earl then left England forever. After his departure from Bridgnorth, Roger Corbet disappears from the surviving records almost entirely. Considering the relative paucity of such records, this is perhaps not surprising, although Roger's advancing age and his role in the Bellême revolt may have dictated that he lead a less active, and thus less conspicuous, life. Some six to fourteen years after the fall of Bridgnorth, Roger and his _son_ Robert, together with some of the great men of the realm, witnessed a _notitia_ of a precept of King Henry to the bishop of London - "Witnesses: King Henry, Richard, bishop of London; Alan Fitz Flaald; Hamo Peverel; Roger Corbet; Robert his son; Herbert Fitz Helgot; and many other good men."[20] At about the same time, Roger and his _brother_, Robert, along with "bishop Richard [of London], Alan Fitz Flaald, Hamo Peverel, Herbert Fitz Helgot and many others"[21] were present at a royal court which decided a dispute over the manor of _Fertecote_.[22] Roger then disappears from the surviving records until 1121, when, together as usual with is brother, Robert, he was a witness to Henry I's charter to Shrewsbury Abbey.[23] Roger's final recorded act was his grant to the monks of Shrewsbury of his town of _Wineslaga_ (Winsley).[24] He made this grant sometime between 1121 and 1136, and like most of the charters in which he appears, it was witnessed by Robert Corbet as well. The precise date of Roger's death is uncertain, but is seems clear that he died sometime before the granting of King Stephen's charter to Shrewsbury Abbey in 1136. In this charter, Stephen confirmed Roger's gift of Winsley to the abbey, but this charter adds that Roger's donation has also been confirmed by his sons, William and Evrard (presumably, as was conventional, shortly after their father's death).[25] [8] "_Rogerio Chorbet_" and "_Roberto Chorbet_" witness a charter of Roger, earl of Shrewsbury, between 1085 and 1094 (CSPS, no. 2). Note: CSPS=Cartulary of Saint Peter's of Shrewsbury (NLW MS 7851D [Phillipps MS 3516]) & NLW=National Library of Wales "_Rogerius Corbet_" and "_Roberto frater eius" were present at a royal court which decided a dispute over the Shropshire manor of _Fertecote_ between 1107 and 1113 (ibid., no. 1.). "_Rogerius filius Corbet_" and "_Robertus frater eius" also witnessed a charter of Henry I between January 1121 and October 1122 (ibid., no. 35.). [9] _Domesday_, 1:252-60. [10] Ibid., 1:253b. Place names will be given in Latin (italics) when they differ significantly from the English or when they cannot be identified. [11] Eyton, _Antiquities_, 6:152, 158. [12] Pipe Roll, _Cartae Antiquae Rolls_ 1-10, p. 20. [13] _Monasticon Anglicannum_, ed. William Dugdale, 3:518, 522. [14] Ibid. 3:518. The abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul was a Benedictine abbey founded by Earl Roger de Montgomery between 1083 and 1087. See Dom David Knowles, ed., _The Heads of Religious Houses, England and Wales_, 940-1216, p. 71. [15] CSPS, no 3. [16] Ibid., nos. 3-5. Eyton goes so far as to say the "Earl Hugh . . . seems to have been attended in most of his public acts by Roger fitz Corbet" (_Antiquities_, 7-9). [17] Because Marjorie Chibnalls's edition of Ordericus's history has not yet reached the passages concerning Robert de Bellême's rebellion, the references to the siege of Bridgnorth are taken from the much less desirable Bohn translation (Ordericus Vitalis, _The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy_, trans. Thomas Forester, 3:334). [18] Ordericus, _History_ (Forester), 3.334. [19] Ibid., 3:336. R. W. Eyton, in discussing Roger Corbet's role in this rebellion, says that it is a question "whether [Roger] suffered in his estate for this rebellion more than he profited by his timely discretion" (_Antiquities_, 7-9), but this reference to Roger's "timely discretion" is entirely unwarranted. Ordericus makes it very clear that it was the regular or local garrison and the burgesses who admitted the royal troops into the town and that the rebel earl's vassals (led by Roger) not only had no part in this betrayal, but resisted it with determination until they were overpowered and captured. Indeed, it is absurd to speak of Roger as having "profited" from the "timely" loss of Bridgnorth, for in spite of the king's apparent recognition of Roger's obligations to his feudal lord, it is clear that Roger lost a few of his manors as a result of his role in the rebellion. [20] CSPS, no. 35. Note that I am translating _filius_ as "Fitz," not as "son of," and that I shall continue to do so throughout this study except in those cases in which someone is identified as _A filius B filii C_, which will be translated as "A, son of B Fitz C." By the mid-twelfth century, men were increasingly known by family names rather than by their father's names, and thus the name which follows the _filius_ is frequently _not_ the name of the man's father. There were, for example, eleven successive Fulk Fitz Warins, only the first of whom was actually the son of a man named Warin. In cases where the persons are clearly Welshmen, however, I will use the Welsh _ap_ rather than the English _Fitz_. [21] CSPS, no. 1. [22] From the similarity of the two witness lists, it would appear that both documents originated in the same royal council and that the Robert Corbet who was identified first as Roger's son and then as Roger's brother was in fact the baron of Longdon and Alcester, Roger's brother. The only document which suggests that Roger had a son named Robert is this _notitia_ in the Shrewsbury cartulary, and its reliablility is questionable. Nevertheless, A. E. Corbet was convinced that Roger had five sons - William, Evrard, Simon, Roger and Robert - and that Robert was the founder of the Scottish branch of the family (_Family_, 1:49-51). Since the Scottish Corbets do make their appearance in the mid-twelfth century, it is possible that A. E. Corbet is correct, but I think it unlikely. Given the similarity of the two documents in question, the regularity with which Roger appears as a witness with his brother, and the absence of other documents where Roger appears with any of his sons, much less a son named Robert, the Robert in question is almost certainly Roger's brother. [23] CSPS, no. 35. [24] Ibid., no. 288. [25] _Monasticon Anglicanum_, 3:519a. I think it likely that Roger Corbet died at least two years before Stephen's confirmation charter was issued, for in 1134 Caus Castle was burned by the Welsh, and at the time it was in the hands of the sheriff of Shropshire, Pain Fitz John (_History_ [Forester]), Ordericus, 4:143-44). Since the Corbet lands clearly never escheated to the crown, it would seem either that Pain had seized the castle illegally or that Pain was lawfully in possession of Caus because Roger had died leaving a minor as his heir, and that the king was exercising his rights of wardship through his sheriff. Since Roger was apparently an adult in 1071 and must therefore have been in his seventies in 1121 - the last date when we can be sure that he was still living - the former explanation would at first seem more likely. Indeed, Eyton was convinced that "the unscrupulous mode in which Pagan fitz John is said to have exercised his provincial power is all that [can explain] his being thus seized of the Castle of a less powerful Baron." (Eyton, _Antiquities_, 7:10) There are, however, some difficulties with this interpretation. First, as will become apparent later in this chapter, Eyton seriously underestimated the Corbets' power, and so it is unlikely that Pain could have wrested the family's principal manor from them. Second, even though the term _unscrupulous sheriff_ may seem a redundancy during this period, it is most unlikely that Pain would have acted against the interest of _this_ family. Pain must have known that King Henry was favorably disposed not just to Sybil Corbet (Henry's mistress & Roger's niece), but to the rest of her family. Finally, Ordericus was more than casually familiar with events along the Welsh March during this period, and yet there is no hint in his account of the burning of Caus which would suggest that Pain's possession of the castle was in any way irregular. Thus it would seem likely that Pain was legally in possession of Caus. But if Pain was in possession of Caus on King Henry's orders in 1134, the only likely reason is that Roger Corbet's heir was still a minor, and since Roger was at least seventy years old in 1121, this too seems unlikely. There is, however, some reason to think that it is nevertheless true. In the first place, there is no evidence apart from Roger's age which precludes the possibility that his sons were minors in 1134, and while it is not common for a man to father sons in his fifties or sixties, it is far from impossible. Moreover, if Roger's sons were not minors when he died, their failure to appear in the surviving records before 1136 is extraordinary. That Roger's charter to Shrewsbury Abbey in 1094 fails to mention his heir is not in itself surprising, for at that time there would be nothing remarkable in Roger's having no sons who had attained their majority (and while the consent of minor sons to such donations was often mentioned in charters of the period, it was only the consent of the adult heirs which was generally considered essential). It is somewhat more unusual, however that Roger's sons (if they were indeed not minors) failed to appear together with their father and uncle in the documents witnessed by Roger and Robert between 1094 and 1121. If Roger had sons who were reaching their majority during this period, it would have been natural for them to accompany their father on occasion, particularly when Roger went to court, so that they could meet and be met by the king and his court. It would also have been natural for such sons to appear, with or without their father, as witnesses to charters of other Shropshire families. But if such sons existed, they left no trace in the surviving records. This invisibility of Roger's sons is not, of course, absolute proof of their minority, but Roger's grant of Winsley to the monks of Shrewsbury does provide almost conclusive proof that his sons were all minors at the time. Since Roger was at least in his seventies when he made this donation, the monks of the abbey would surely have insisted that the charter mention the consent of Roger's heirs or the presence of his sons among the witnesses unless it was pointless to do so; and for this to be pointless, all of Roger's sons must have been minors when Roger made this donation. [Ref: Barons of the Welsh Frontier p3-6 (footnotes p159-162)] Note: CSPS = Cartulary of St. Peter's of Shewsbury (National Library of Wales MS 7851D [Phillipps MS 3516]). Roger Corbet built a border fortress at his Castle at Alfreton which he named Caux Castle after his home domain in Normandy. It was later spelt Cause. [Ref:]


  • Phillips, Weber, Kirk and Staggs Families of the Pacific Northwest, by Jim Weber,


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