Odo de Champagne

Immediately after Drogo’s escape, William seized all his estates and bestowed some of them (including those in Holderness) to Odo (or Eudes), dispossessed Count of Champagne and Brie. Odo had fled to England where he took refuge in the Court of William. Through the intercession of the Archbishop of Rouen, Odo had become the third husband of William’s sister Adelaide. The Archbishop also granted Odo the lands of Aumale (a region of Normandy, anglicised as Albemarle), which he elevated to a countship.

At the time of being given Holderness, Odo and Adelaide had a son, Stephen. Apparently, Odo complained that the soil of Holderness was only fit for growing barley and asked for land capable of supporting wheat “in order to better nourish the king’s nephew”. William responded by giving Odo the manor of Bytham in Lincolnshire, previously held by Drogo.

William died in September 1087 from a wound that he received in a siege on the town of Mantes. He bequeathed Normandy to his eldest son Robert while England was granted to his second surviving son, William.

WILLIAM II “RUFUS” (1087 – 1100)


William was born 1056, the third son of William and Matilda. He was nicknamed Rufus, probably due to his florid complexion. On the death of their father, Robert and William were natural rivals.


Odo was embarrassed by the fact that he owed allegiance to both William II and to Robert Court-heuse (the elder brother of Rufus) in Normandy. He decided in favour of William and was rewarded with an English garrison for his Castle of Aumale. Odo and Stephen then enlarged and strengthened the castle, at the expense of the royal treasury, at the time of William’s invasion of Normandy in 1090.

In 1095, Odo participated with other dissatisfied nobles in a conspiracy to depose William and put Odo’s son Stephen in his place. The king learned of the plot and in 1096 Odo and Stephen were both arrested. Odo’s lands were confiscated and he was imprisoned and died in prison, probably in 1108. Stephen was originally condemned to have his eyes put out but this sentence was remitted due to the pleas of Stephen’s wife and family (and the payment of a considerable amount of money). Stephen escaped from England in 1096 and joined the first crusade, fighting valiantly at Antioch

On 2 August 1100 the king was struck by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest and died shortly afterwards. There was a suggestion that the death was not accidental!

HENRY I (1100 – 1135)


Following the death of William II, it was anticipated that the throne would pass to Robert Court-heuse but his younger brother, Henry Beauclerk, rushed to Winchester, gained control of the treasury and was subsequently crowned on 5 August. Robert considered an invasion but was bought off by the promise of payment of £2,000 per year.

Holderness passes to Stephen, 3rd Lord of Holderness

Before 1100, Stephen married Hawise, daughter of Ranulph de Mortimer of Wigmore. In 1102, Henry restored to Stephen the land holding that had been confiscated from his father in 1096. Thus Stephen succeeded to the countship of Aumale and the Lordship of Holderness and Bytham, together entitled “the fee and honor of Albemarle”. In the 1120’s the residential focus of the seigniory began to move from Skipsea Castle to Burstwick Castle, essentially a fortified manor house.

Stephen and Hawise died about 1127. Stephen was succeeded as Lord of Holderness by his eldest son, William of Blois, known as “Le Gros."

STEPHEN (1135 – 1154)


Stephen was a son of Adela (daughter of William the Conqueror and sister of Henry I) and Stephen-Henry, Count of Blois and Chartres. Stephen’s reign was marked by The Anarchy, a civil war between himself and Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, who challenged Stephen for the throne. The issue was finally resolved when Matilda agreed to recognise Stephen provided her son, Henry, succeeded Stephen to the throne.

William of Blois, 1st Earl of Albemarle, Earl of York, 4th Lord of Holderness

In the 1130’s William, otherwise known as William Le Gros, constructed a wooden castle at Scarborough. He distinguished himself at the battle of the Standard in 1138. As a reward, Stephen made William Earl of Yorkshire (apart from Richmondshire) in the same year.  William also fought with King Stephen in the defeat of Lincoln in 1141. He married Cicely, daughter of William Fitz-Duncan, and grandson of Malcolm, king of Scotland. Cicely "Lady of Skipton" brought William vast estates. William developed Skipsea Brough on the ridge above Skipsea Castle to give it additional defence. It was also intended to provide rents and tolls from the residents and shops fronting the road. In 1147 William founded a Cistercian Abbey close to his castle at Bytham, Lincolnshire. The abbey was constructed by monks from Fountains Abbey but the land was soon found to be unsuitable. A new abbey was built nearby and named Vaudey Abbey (derived from “valley of God”). In lieu of an avowed pilgrimage to Jerusalem (and perhaps influenced by his age and expanding waistline), William founded another Cistercian abbey at Melsa (Meaux) in 1150. It was also originally colonised by monks from Fountains Abbey. Unfortunately, the abbey was built on the flood plain of the River Hull and was liable to dampness and occasional flooding. It also suffered from debts, lawsuits, raids and internal unrest.

Swine Priory

Around 1150, a Cistercian nunnery was established at Swine. It was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and endowed by Robert de Verli and others. The endowment included the parish church of Swine. The nunnery was originally occupied by a prioress and 19 nuns but male premonstratensian canons were admitted later. The ancient parish of Swine covered about 20 villages and hamlets and was once the largest parish, by area, in Holderness, even after the transfer of part of the parish to Sutton.

V 2.2

The Normans (2)