Saturday 16th May 2015
About 90 people attended this conference. The main speakers were:
Professor Daniel Power (Swansea) on "The Anglo-Norman Aristocracy 1066-1215"
Professor David Carpenter (Kings, London) on "The Magna Carta Project"
Elizabeth Chadwick (the historical novelist) on "King John and William Marshal"
Dr Matthew Stevens (Swansea) on "Women and the Law in the age of Magna Carta"
Derwin Bennett as "The Royal Executioner"
On Sunday 17th May members visited the Magna Carta exhibition at Hereford Cathedral and viewed their copy of the 1217 revision of Magna Carta.
Extensive summaries of the talks by the four main speakers have been published in a newsletter Click Here

Saturday 14th March 2015
AGM AT LEINTWARDINE Herefordshire followed by a talk and a visit to the church
At the AGM our Chairman, Jason O'Keefe, gave a very positive view of the development of the Society. Since the last AGM the number of members has increased by 17% to over 140. Jason reviewed the events of the last year and looked forward to an interesting conference in May. The Treasurer, Hugh Wood, reported the finances to be in good order. Four new people were elected to the committee. Clive Jupp will take over as Treasurer and Kat Prawl has agreed to act as Membership Secretary even though she lives in Texas. Also elected were Stanton Stephens and Philip Hume. After discussion the new Constitution was approved.

After the AGM Jonathan Hopkinson of the Leintwardine History Society gave an interesting presentation on the village entitled 'Leintwardine - Mystery, Fact and Supposition'. Among other things this introduced us to the Mortimer connection and raised a number of very interesting questions. Jonathan then showed us around the church, pointing out many interesting features including what seems to be the site of an anchoress's cell. Notes from Jonathan's talk form the basis of a short article entitled Leintwardine and the Mortimers that logged-in members can access by following the link which will appear here. 

 17th to 20th October  2014


Our most ambitious project so far saw a group of 26 of us visiting the great Mortimer castle in Trim and the nearby site of the Dominican Friary founded by Geoffrey de Geneville in 1263. While staying in Dublin we were also able to view the copy of the Wigmore Chronicle held in Trinity College Library. Follow the link for an extensive report on the trip that also explains the background to the Mortimers' involvement in Ireland. Link to the report

Saturday 16th August 2014

Stapleton is just a short distance from Presteigne, close to the Welsh border. The castle mound is owned by MHS member Trefor Griffiths who kindly conducted a group of 12 fellow-members round the impressive site on a rather cold blowy August day. Today the hilltop is dominated by the tottering ruins of an Elizabethan house of the early 17th century, but the history of the site goes back many centuries before that. It is quite possible, indeed, that the hill was populated in the Iron Age, but this has not been confirmed. It was in the 12th century, however, that work began on creating the medieval castle.

The tottering remains of the Elizabethan mansion built by the Cornewalls

At the southern end of the hilltop is a wide raised area, clearly the site of the original motte but presumably flattened later to accommodate the extensive Elizabethan mansion. To the north there is an area about 8 feet lower, with all the appearance of an inner bailey. There are still deep ditches to the east and west of the motte that presumably continued across the north side originally. Beyond the inner bailey, to the north, is an extensive outer bailey at a still lower level.

Trefor Griffiths explaining about the layout of the castle

There was a castle at Richards Castle in Herefordshire even before the Norman Conquest and, by the 13th century, the Barony of Richards Castle (or Honour of Burford) consisted of 9 castles. It was Baron Hugh FitzOsbern or his son Osbern FitzHugh who built the castle at Stapleton during the "Anarchy". Osbern's mother, Eustachia, was from the well established family of Say (cf. Stokesay and Hopesay near Craven Arms) and Osbern and his brother adopted the surname of Say. When Baron Hugh de Say died about 1195 his daughter Margaret became his heiress. As her second husband, she married Robert Mortimer of Essex who thereby became Baron of Richards Castle (or Burford) in the right of his wife. He died in or before 1219 and, although Margaret married a third time, Robert's son, Hugh de Mortimer, eventually succeeded to the barony. Stapleton was held by the Mortimers of Richards Castle until the male line failed in 1299.

Stapleton then passed by marriage to the Cornewall family and it was during their time that the medieval castle was converted into a mansion. During the Civil War it was 'defaced' to stop it being utilised by the Parliamentarians and in 1706 the site was acquired by the Harleys of Brampton Bryan. Despite the fact that almost nothing remains above ground of the medieval buildings, the clearly-defined earthworks and romantic ruins evoke strong echoes of the lives of those across the centuries who made this place their home.

Trefor's house with the castle remains in the distance

Saturday 21st June 2014
USING HISTORY FOR FACT AND FICTION - A Workshop for Published Writers and Beginners

What is the line that divides fact from fiction? Writing biography and history – how to choose what is closer to what really happened? Are historical facts really solid and provable? These were some of the discussion points at an interesting study day at Ludlow in June. The day was led by MHS member Fran Norton and by Ina Taylor. Fran is now writing her third historical novel. Her first book, called In the Shadow of a Tainted Crown, was published by Ellingham Press in 2010. Set mainly in Ludlow, it is a story about Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella at the turning of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Ina is Fran’s publisher. She offered guidance to members both about writing and about getting into print, from her experience as a biographer, researcher and publisher. Ina gave the group useful hints to help with researching, planning and constructing the storyline; the importance of referencing different sources and looking in unusual places for new information and cross-checking; and even how to overcome writer’s block.

Some participants were experienced writers of historical material – some had written on ‘fact and fiction’ from different periods, places and people - the Iron Age, medieval times, the Civil War, the Welsh and English Marches and their local area. We realised that all historical ‘facts’ are biased according to who writes the record (if any record was made and survived) and who had paid the scribes. Just as an autobiography is written from the writer’s point of view, then biography and history are also interpretations of events and peoples’ reactions to those events – usually the view of the most powerful.

After lunch break, workshop participants were given the task of writing a short piece on the topic Where is he now?, inspired by (but not necessarily about) the discovery of Richard III’s bones in the Leicester car park, or the unknown burial place of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March after his execution at Tyburn in 1330. A wide range of stories were read back to the group including two different burial places for Glyn Dwr , one in the grave that was said to be the resting place of Prince Llewellyn. Other stories were explanations of Roger Mortimer’s burial – two versions of how Roger was buried in Much Marcle church in or beneath his daughter Blanche’s tomb and effigy. Remains have been found within the tomb wrapped in lead, but there is no knowing whose remains have been discovered at St Bartholomew’s; or perhaps Roger was buried at the priory in Coventry where Isabella wished him to be, or at Blackfriars in London or maybe somewhere else?

Margot Miller

Saturday 17th May 2014

About 70 people attended this interesting and informative day at Earl Mortimer College, Leominster, Herefordshire

From left to right: Dr Colin Veach, Dr Beth Hartland, Dr Ian Mortimer, Dr Jessica Lutkin, Dr Paul Dryburgh and Dr Brendan Smith

The morning sessions were chaired by Dr Paul Dryburgh

Session 1
Dr Brendan Smith (University of Bristol) - The Mortimer Family and Medieval Ireland
The Mortimers of Wigmore first acquired estates in Ireland when Roger Mortimer (d1282) married Matilda de Braose, the granddaughter of William Marshal. The first Lord of Wigmore to actually visit Ireland, however, was Roger's grandson Roger, later 1st Earl of March (d1330). In 1308 he acquired substantial holdings in Ireland, notably in Meath, through his marriage to Joan de Geneville. All the later Earls of March were involved in Ireland to a greater or lesser extent, yet over the whole period from 1347 to 1425, there was a Lord of Wigmore present in Ireland for only about 10 years. Read the report of Brendan's talk here

Session 2
Dr Colin Veach  (University of Hull) - The Lacys and the Conquest of Ireland
In 1172, at the end of a very powerful and successful excursion to Ireland, King Henry II transformed the fortunes of the Lacys in Ireland by awarding the substantial county of Meath to Hugh de Lacy. The king did this for good defensive reasons. Lying just beyond the vitally important city of Dublin it was needed as a buffer zone to protect Dublin on the north side against incursions of the Irish. Dr Veach described the way Hugh de Lacy set about the task of transforming this part of Ireland into a modern Norman state like those in England and France. Read the report of Dr Veach's talk here 

The afternoon sessions were chaired by Dr Ian Mortimer

Session 3
Dr Beth Hartland  (Victoria County History) - Geoffrey de Geneville: one man, two kings & three countries
A younger son from the Champagne region of France, Geoffrey came to the English court as one of the Savoyards, in the wake of Henry III's queen, Eleanor of Provence. He acquired Meath in Ireland through his marriage to the heiress Matilda de Lacy and was a trusted courtier and diplomat, undertaking international assignments on behalf of his monarch well into old age. See the report of Dr Hartland's talk here

Session 4
Dr Jessica Lutkin  (University of York) - England's Immigrants 1330-1550: The Irish Immigrants
Dr Lutkin described the England's Immigrants project in some detail. The main information about Irish immigrants comes from the alien subsidies, a tax imposed on aliens in the 1400s to control trade and employment. The quality of the records is variable, depending on the professionalism of those recording and the area coverage is rather patchy, but useful information has emerged. It is clear that the majority of Irish immigrants in 1394 were either professionals (including clerics) or craftsmen rather than unskilled navvies. Read the report of Dr Lutkin's talk here

Session 5
Plenary Discussion with all the Speakers
Here are some of the questions and answers.

Joan de Geneville
Q: What was the greatest achievement of Joan Mortimer in her attempts to regain her lands?
A: Beth’s paper showed that Drogheda was a big case study as Joan attempted to get it back. It eventually became a county borough in 1412 and was therefore taken out of the Mortimer estates.

Justiciar of Ireland
Q: Was the office of Justiciar executed personally or in a Council?
A: (Various) The Justiciar acts as the King’s officer with a Council. There would have been a Counsellor, Treasurer, and some senior nobility. When he needed more help the Justiciar could summon a larger Council or even a Parliament.

Ireland as a place of exile?
Q: Were people sent to Ireland to get them out of the country or because they were the best qualified people for the job?
A: Richard II sent Roger Mortimer (4th Earl of March) because he feared he may have caused trouble.
Q: Following the Battle of Lewes the Marcher lords are sent to exile in Ireland, was this a one-off or was Ireland a place where the King would sometimes send troublemakers?
A: There are some other examples of this happening, but there isn’t enough to know if this was a specific policy or not.

Irish Soldiers
Q: Was there a requirement for the Irish to serve in the English military?
A: (Brendan) There were certainly Irish soldiers in France during the 100 years war. A good example of this was the siege of Rouen, where a large number of Irish soldiers were active. (Colin) There are also plenty of examples of Irish fighting for other English kings in other wars.

Travel to and from Ireland
Q: How did the Mortimers, Lacys etc. travel to and from Ireland? Would they have travelled in small or large groups?
A: (Colin) It’s hard to tell exactly, but they certainly took their most trusted people with them. They would also never have travelled alone as it would have been too dangerous.

English Immigrants from Ireland
Q: Why do most of the people in the Immigrants' list have English rather than Irish names?
A: (Brendan) The names are English, because they were born in Ireland to English families, but they are still considered aliens by the authorities. It’s return migration.
Q: In a book about medieval Chester, there seem to be many Irish living there. Can the England’s Immigrants project help with this?
A: (Jessica) One of the drawbacks of the project is that it doesn’t go into every county. Cheshire and Durham are both Palatinates and that makes them problem areas for the study.
Q: Why does Wiltshire have twice as many Irish as other counties. Brendan had already stated that there was a thriving textile industry there.
A: (Jessica) The Assessors in Wiltshire were very efficient. One must take that into account when trying to judge Irish immigrant density for that county.
Q: Can one search the Immigrants project database for how somebody came to England and what particular skill they had?
A: (Jessica) Generally no, unless they are highly skilled and it’s a very specific function.