The Domesday Survey of 1086 records the manors of Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles as part of the holdings of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux, the half-brother of King William I, the Conquerer. Odo was created Earl of Kent in 1067 as reward for his support during William’s invasion and subsequent conquest of England. The earldom gave Odo an annual income of £.3,000 from 184 lordships in Kent and numerous manors in 12 other counties which made him by far the richest tenant-in-chief in England.
Essewelle was one of Odo’s many Kent manors and the Domesday records: “Ralph de Curbespine holds ESSEWELLE from the Bishop (Odo). It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 3 ploughs. 1 villager with 7 smallholders have ½ plough. 1 slave. Value £6. Molleva held it from King Edward (the Confessor)”.
Molleve (Malleue), believed to be a widow, also held the nearby manors of Danitone (Denton), Ewelle (Ewell), and Colret (Coldred) from King Edward.
By 1086 Ralph, or Radulph de Curbespine (also Courbepine, Curva Spine, Crookshorne, Crooksthorne, and Crowdthorne), a protege of Odo and noted as “a great despoiler of women”, benefited greatly from Odo’s patronage and held Molleve’s and other manors in Kent from Odo along with property in Canterbury and Dover. Ralph de Curbespine also held manors from other over-lords in several English counties.
However, the King’s rewards were not enough for Odo and he set about increasing his wealth by taking by force whatever he wanted. This soon made him the most hated man in Kent and bought him into direct conflict with Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also had extensive Kent land-holdings. In 1076 this confrontation led to Odo’s trial on Pennenden Heath near Maidstone for defrauding both the Crown and the Diocese of Canterbury and Odo had to return some of the property he had illegally obtained whilst other assets were re-apportioned.
Odo’s greed and ambition eventually led to his downfall in 1082 when King William arrested and imprisoned him for seditiously planning a military expedition to Italy, supposedly in pursuit of the Papacy, without the King’s permission. The King confiscated Odo’s earldom and remaining estates and Odo was imprisoned until 1087 when King William was persuaded on his deathbed to release him from prison.
After William the Conquerer’s death in September of 1087 the newly crowned William II, the second surviving son of the Conquerer who was known as Rufus because of his ruddy complexion, returned the earldom of Kent to his uncle. In 1088 Odo accordingly showed his gratitude to his nephew by organizing a rebellion to overthrow and replace him with Robert, called Curthose, Duke of Normandy, the older brother of William Rufus. After the failure of the rebellion William II took back his uncle’s earldom and numerous lordships and estates and Odo was allowed to take service with Duke Robert in Normandy. Whilst en route to Palestine with Duke Robert to take part in the First Crusade Odo died in Palermo in Sicily in 1097. After the confiscations King William II redistributed some of Odo’s lordships and estates to other barons as rewards for service or to buy their loyalty.
Ralph de Curbispine was the brother of Gilbert Maminot, Bishop of Lisieux, who had been William the Conquerer’s personal chaplain and doctor. Bishop Gilbert was a large landowner in his own right and his and Ralph’s holdings were assimilated by the Maminot, also Mamignot, family and evolved into the Barony of Maminot which was held directly from the Crown.
In December of 1135 King Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conquerer, died without a direct male heir. His son and heir William Adelin had drowned in The White Ship disaster of 1120, and as a consequence of this he had nominated his daughter Matilda, sometimes referred to as Maud, as his successor. Matilda was married to Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and was known as the Empress Matilda. Stephen of Blois, the dead king’s nephew, claimed that on his deathbed Henry I had named him as his successor. As a result of these conflicting claims to the English throne an armed conflict broke out between the Empress Matilda and her cousin. The ensuing civil war became known as The Anarchy known because of the resulting break down of law and order and it lasted from 1135 until 1153 when Stephen ended the conflict by naming Henry, Matilda’s son and the grand-son of Henry I, as his
The first recorded holder of the Maminot barony was Hugo Maminot, who was succeeded by his son Walkelin Maminot. Walkelin appears to have sided with the Empress as around 1138 Stephen confiscated the Maminot barony. On Stephen’s death at Dover in October of 1154 Matilda’s son Henry succeeded to the throne as Henry II and returned the confiscated barony to Walkelin around 1155.
The Barony of Maminot was one of eight baronies owing duty of Castleguard to Dover Castle with the barony duty bound to provide three knights for four week periods of service. This was shared by twenty-four knights of whom some fifteen were from Kent with the remainder from other parts of the kingdom. Essewelle was recorded as owing one knights fee under Walkelin in 1166, but unfortunately the fee holder is not mentioned by name.
After Walkelin’s death in 1170 the barony seems to have been administered by Juliana, his widow. Juliana’s administration lasted for some years until her death, the date of which is unclear. After Juliana’s death the barony passed to Galfrid de Sai (Geoffrey de Say) by way of Adelidis, his wife, who was an heiress of Walkelin Maminot. The exact date of Galifred’s gaining possession of the barony Maminot is unclear, but he was in full control of it by 1194 and it subsequently became known as the Barony of Say and its holdings remained in his family’s possession until the early 1400’s.
In 1243 there is a record that half of the fee of Essewelle was held by Hamo Kalkyn, and the other half by Geoffrey Conquester and William Nicola and that they sold their half of the fee to Rogerus de Kynardinton (Roger de Kennardington) in January of 1243. The half fee was to be held in scutage of 42 shillings yearly, payable half at Easter and half at Christmas and in ward of Dover Castle.
Scutage was a cash payment in lieu of military service. After the Dauphin of France besieged Dover Castle of 1216-17 aided by rebellious English barons changes were made to the fabric and administration of the castle. One of the principal changes was that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became Castleward rent. This discharged a fee holder from all personal service and attendance and enabled the King to use the rent money received to garrison the castle with professional soldiers. The rent payment was 120 pence (10 shillings, now 50 new pence) for each period of service expected of a fee holder.