2014-12-16 19:15:28 UTC
Complete Peerage 2 (1912): 115-116 (sub Benhale) includes an account of Sir Robert de Benhale, Lord Benhale [died 1365], who was summoned to Parliament 3 April 1360, by writ directed Roberto de Benhale, whereby he may be held to have become Lord Benhale.
Although not mentioned by Complete Peerage, in his day Sir Robert de Benhale was considered the hero of the Battle of Halidon Hill which took place in 1333. An account of Sir Robert de Benhale's prowess is published in Gransden, Historical Writing in England c.1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (1996): 78, which may be previewed at the following weblink:
"Another dramatic anecdote occurs in the description of the battle of Halidon Hill. Before the engagement a champion came from the Scottish camp, a formidable giant, 'a very Goliath', who was called in English Turnbull ('Turnebole'), and challenged any Englishman to single combat. At length a Norfolk knight called Robert de Benhall accepted the challenge and rode towards the champion with drawn sword. On the way, he cut in two a black mastiff 'which accompanied and supported' the champion: the latter was so maddened by the slaughter of his dog that Benhall succeeded in cutting off his left hand and then his head." END OF QUOTE.
Complete Peerage gives the following information regarding Lord Benhale's parentage in footnote a on page 116:
"His arms were, Gules, a fer de moulin Argent, overall a bendlet Azure. These were the same as those borne by Sir Guy de Ferre, a distinguished man of Gascon origin, and the two owned adjoining manors in Suffolk, known as Benhall and Benhall Sir Robert. It seems quite possible that Sir Robert was a member of Sir Guy's family, but dropped his foreign name when he settled in England, and called himself after his Suffolk place. The fact that (like Melchizedek) nothing is known of his parentage, also points to his having been of foreign extraction, The two abovementioned Benhall manors both passed to the Ufford family, which again suggests kindred between Ferre and Benhale. (ex. inform. Arthur Crawley Boevey). V.G." END OF QUOTE.
Mr. Boevey compares Sir Robert de Benhale to a person named Melchizedek, which individual is mentioned briefly in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Few mysteries of the Bible have been as intriguing as the identity of Melchizedek. Given this comparison, one would think that Sir Robert de Benhale had literally dropped from the sky and that his origins can not be traced in English records. As we will see below, such is not the case.
Mr. Boevey's strange theory regarding the Ferre and Benhale families appears to derive from an earlier account of these families written by a certain Charles A. Buckler published in Notes & Queries 6th Series 1 (1880): 299-300, which note may be viewed at the following weblink:
After discussing records of various members of the Ferre and Benhale family, Mr. Buckler refers to Sir Robert de Benhale without any explanation as "Robert de Ferre, Lord of Benhall." He fails to present any evidence that Sir Robert de Benhale, Lord Benhale, was ever known as "Robert de Ferre." In fact, as far as I know, there is absolutely no basis for referring to Sir Robert de Benhale as "Robert de Ferre."
Why Mr. Buckler should turn Sir Robert de Benhale into a member of the Ferre family is not explained by him. Even so, as written by Complete Peerage, Mr. Boevey's Ferre-Benhale theory does sound convincing enough. However, Mr. Boevey's statements contain factual error. For starters, the statement is made that Sir Robert de Benhale bore the same arms as Sir Guy de Ferre, a Gascon. He specifically states that both men bore the following arms: Gules, a fer de moulin Argent, overall a bendlet Azure.
However, Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica 4 (1837): 393 includes the arms of Sir Robert de Benhale in a "Roll of the Arms of Knights at the Tournament at Dunstable, in 7 Edw. III. [i.e. 1333]": His arms are described as being:
Sable ove un bend et deux wyfres d'argent.
Elsewhere, Foster, Some Feudal Coats of Arms (1902): 21 indicates that the arms of Robert de Benhale were: Argent, a bend between three fizures (cotises) wavy sable.
As for the arms of Sir Guy de Ferre, they are discussed in the book, Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon, 1284-1307 (1946): 15:
"Among those in 'the battle of the king's son in the Galloway of 1300 the writer includes 'Sir Guy de Ferre, gules, a mill-rind (fer de moulyn) ermine' and 'Sir Guy de Ferre, the nephew, the same arms with a baton azure. It will be noticed that these are 'canting' arms, adapted from the family name."
In spite of Mr. Boevey's claims, it can be seen at once that Sir Robert de Benhale bore a completely different set of arms from Sir Guy de Ferre. So the basis for assuming any kinship between these two men collapses at once. Neighbors yes, related no.
As for Sir Robert de Benhale's actual parentage, I recently located a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas dated 1353 which proves conclusively that Sir Robert de Benhale was the son and heir of a certain Geoffrey de Benhale. After locating this lawsuit, I consulted offlist with the esteemed Dr. Matthew Tompkins, who kindly provided me with an English transcript of the original Latin text. Dr. Tompkins' transcript reads as follows:
Source: Court of Common Pleas, CP40/372, image 8251f (available at http://aalt.law.uh.edu/E3/CP40no372/aCP40no372fronts/IMG_8251.htm).
"Robert son of Geoffrey de Benhale sued John son of Giles de Wesenham regarding 62 acres of land, eight acres of meadow and 5 acres of moor (mora) in Bexwell and Fordham, Norfolk, which he claimed Robert de Benhale clerk had given to Geoffrey de Benhale and the heirs of his body in the time of king Edward, 'avus' of the present king, and which after the death of the said Geoffrey ought to descend to his son and heir Robert according to the form of the gift
John through his attorney denied that Robert de Benhale clerk had granted the lands to Geoffrey de Benhale and the heirs of his body as claimed. The parties agreed that the issue of whether or not the grant had been made should be determined by a jury trial. The court ordered a jury to be summoned for the quindene of Easter in King's Lynn.
At some later date a further entry was added to the roll recording that the trial was held and the jury found that the gift had indeed been made as claimed by Robert son of Geoffrey de Benhale. It was ordered that he should recover seisin of the property." END OF TRANSCRIPT.
That the plaintiff dealing with lands in Bexwell and Fordham, Norfolk is the same person as Sir Robert de Benhale, Lord Benhale can be shown from the fact that as "Sir Robert de Benhale, knight," in 1337 he quitclaimed to the Prior and convent of Holy Trinity, Norwich, John Curteys, and Thomas de Brisele one piece of land in Riston, and one half of the advowson of the church of Fordham, Norfolk [see Turner Calender of Charters & Rolls: Bodleian Lib. (1878): 210-211; Blomefield, Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk 7 (1807): 395].
So Sir Robert de Benhale clearly had interests at Fordham, Norfolk.
As with the Bexwell and Fordham lands mentioned in the 1353 lawsuit, Sir Robert de Benhale appears to have derived his interest in Fordham, Norfolk from an earlier Robert de Benhale who in 1285-6 acquired a messuage, with lands valued as 60s. per annum and the moiety of the church of Fordham, with the advowson of that church from John son of Henry de Deen and Maud his wife [see
Blomefield, Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk 7 (1807): 395].
As per Mr. Buckler's account in Notes and Queries, Sir Robert de Benhale also appears to have derived his ownership of the small manor of Benhall Sir Robert, Suffolk from an earlier Robert de Benhale, king's clerk. The following two records cited by Mr. Buckler provide the link.
"Manerium de Benhale Sir Roberts. Carta, 20 Ed. I., A.D. 1292. "Sciatis nos concessise et hac carta nostra confirmasse dilecto clerico nostro, Roberto de Benhale," &c., datum apud Berewyk super Twedam iiij. die Junii."
7 Hen. IV., A.D. 1406, Inquisitio ad quod damnum, n. 35, 'Manerium de Benhale cum pertinen' quod nuper fuit Roberti de Benhale, mil.'"
Elsewhere I've located three other contemporary records which pertain to Robert de Benhale, clerk, who occurs in the period, 1291-1296. The third reference below indicates that he was parson of the church of Kelsale, Suffolk in 1296.
1. In 1291 Clement de Plumstede and William de Aldeburgh acknowledged that they owed Robert de Benehale 12; to be levied, in default of payment, of their lands and chattels in co. Norfolk. Reference: Calendar of Close Rolls, 1288-1296 (1904): 192.
2. In 1291 Robert de Baygnard acknowledged that he owed Robert de Benehale, clerk, £60; to be levied, in default of his lands and chattels in co. Norfolk. Reference: Calendar of Close Rolls, 1288-1296 (1904): 192.
3. In 1296 Edmund de Hastings acknowledged hat he owed Robert de Benhale, parson of the church of Kelsale, Suffolk, a debt of £50. Reference: Cal. Close Rolls, 1296-1302 (1906): 75.
In summary, the 1353 Common Pleas lawsuit proves that Sir Robert de Benhale, Lord Benhale was the son and heir of Geoffrey de Benhale. Lord Benhale was apparently near related (nephew perhaps) of an earlier Robert de Benhale, king's clerk, who was parson of Kelsale, Suffolk. Sir Robert de Benhale, Lord Benhale appears to have been the successor to the earlier Robert de Benhale, king's clerk, at both Benhall Sir Robert, Suffolk and at Fordham, Norfolk.
In closing, I wish to extend my thanks for Dr. Tompkins for providing me the English transcript of the 1353 lawsuit. His help is much appreciated.
Best always, Douglas Richardson, Salt Lake City, Utah