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This page was last updated on: April 11, 2009
The de Goreham Family of Westwick
I am indebted to Ginny Wagner for sharing the genealogical information concerning her family the Gorehams, some of her ancestors being those members of the family who lived in St. Albans and Westwick in the Middle Ages. If you have any specific queries concerning the family history of the Gorehams, please contact her directly.
Prior to the dissolution, apart from the two centuries when it was in the hands of firstly the de Gorham family, and then the de Vere family, the manors around what came to be known as Gorehambury were under the control of one of the most powerful monastic foundations in the country - the Benedictine Abbey of St. Albans.


Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham (he was Abbot of St. Albans from 1119 - 1146 ) built a hall at Westwick for the use of  one of his friends,  (unnamed in the original documents), who was also a benefactor of the church and a relative of some sort.  It is thought the person for whom he built the hall was Hugh, son of the Humbald to which the manor had originally been granted in the previous  century. Hugh was Geoffrey's brother in law, and the manor was granted to him (Without the consent of the convent, though it belonged to the monk's refectory, who used the revenue from the land to help supply the refectory.), on the occasion of his marriage with Geoffrey's sister.  Hugh appears to have taken the name " de Gorham ". [ S9,Vol.2,p.393 ]

Peter Newcome in his "History of the Abbey of St. Albans" states that:

         "Then all the lands of Westwick, which had been granted to Humball for his life, and which at first had been set apart for the use of the monk's table, he granted to the son of Humbald, who had married a sister of Geoffrey.  He granted also some lands, near Westwick to a familiar friend and client, who had been born of obscure origin at a small hamlet in Normandy, called Gorham, and this he confirmed by charter."

1135 - 1153    - England was torn by civil war between King Stephen and his cousin Matilda ( sometimes known as the Empress Maude ), and not settled until the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153 when Matilda's son Henry of Anjou was declared heir to the throne upon Stephen's death.  The general anarchy which  spread throughout the country, probably accounted for the fact that Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham was able to grant land without proper permission.[ S69 ] (N.B. To those of you who have read The Brother Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters, or who watched the Cadfael series on television, this is the period represented.  Historically both books and T.V. series painted a very accurate picture of life at this time. )

1151 - 1166    - During these years Abbot Robert de Gorham was Abbot of St. Albans, and he confirmed the grant of the manor of Westwick which  his predecessor had illegally conferred upon Hugh " de Gorham".   [S9.Vol.2 p.393 ]

1166 - Another Geoffrey de Gorham ( presumably Hugh's grandson and Ivo's son), held the manor of Westwick from the Abbot of St. Albans. For this he paid suit at the hundred of Cashio every three weeks, and gave two-thirds of a knights fee. [ VCH, Vol.2 p.393 ]  A knights fee was land held by a tenant with an obligation to provide military assistance to his lord when requested.  The total holdings of knights fee's owed to the lord, was the total number of knights the tenant should muster, plus these knights' various villeins, if the lord should call upon them for military service. [ S70, glossary.]

1184-1219 - This is the date given to the timbers of the original part of Westwick Cottage as a result of dendochronological testing undertaken in 1997, and confirmed by Adrian Gibson a known expert on old timber framed buildings.  The quality of the timbers is particularly  good,  making it very rare in Hertfordshire, and even  nationally. The house was originally an open hall house of high status, it's size and type of timber dendochronological testing undertaken in 1997, and confirmed by Adrian Gibson a known expert on old timber framed buildings.  The quality of the timbers is particularly  good,  making it very rare in Hertfordshire, and even  nationally. The house was originally an open hall house of high status, it's size and type of timber giving this information. [ S298,S300, S328]

Dendro. tests were also undertaken at the same time on Westwick Row Farm House, but unfortunatley they have been unable to give a definate date to Westwick Row Farm ( Dennis Bell-Taylor's ) as insufficent stretches of rings could be counted.  However, Adrian Gibson thinks it an important building as it  is one of if not THE most easterly cruck framed building of this type. [S298]

Although this date makes it unlikely that this hall was "the place of the Gorhams", it was obviously an important manor house/hall, possibly built on the grounds granted by Abbot Geoffrey de Goraham to his brother in-law. As it has remained inhabited ever since - though of varying status throughout it's long history - it shows the importance of the settlement along Westwick Row throughout the middle ages and into modern times.  It is quite possible that Abbot Geoffrey's hall was built on the same site of Westwick Cottage, and may well have been on the same site as the Anglos Saxon Hall - but unless further finds are unearthed we can never be sure about this.  What we can now be reasonably sure about however, is that the the various important early settlements (Roman, Anglo Saxon and Norman) were in the  immediate environs of Westwick Row. (Further evidence can be found in the form of the hedgerow surveys undertaken along Pancake Lane and Westwick Row.) It is now, with recent archaelogical investigations at Leverstock Green Primary School in June 2003, also looking likely that there was an Iron Age settlement in the immediate vicinity. 


1212 - Henry de Gorham ( Geoffrey's successor ) held land from the Abbott of St. Albans for payment of  two-thirds of a knights fee.  This land was presumably the manor of Westwick, and constituted  four and a half hides. A hide was a unit of land, usually four virgates and notionally 120 acres in Hertfordshire.( A hide was mainly used as a unit for fiscal purposes.)  If Westwick was 4.5 hides, then it must have been about 540 acres in extent.  A fair holding, and roughly the same size as the land farmed today as Westwick Row Farm [ VCH, Vol 2 p.393; S70, glossary;S54]

1230 - Sir William de Gorham died, holder of the manor of Westwick. He was the son of the Henry mentioned in 1212.  William married Cecilia de Sanford who was appointed governess to Eleanor, sister of Henry III. (Princess Eleanor, on the advice of Celia de Sanford took a vow of chastity after she became a widow at the age of 15. Later following a papal dispensation, Nell married Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester) He was succeeded by his son, another William de Gorham.  Cecilia, William's widow, also took a vow of chastity at her husband's death.  She was a very pious woman and was  eventually buried in St. Albans Abbey. (see entry for 1251.)  If as seems now highly likely, Sir William and his wife Celia lived when not at court at their manor of Westwick, this would likely to have been along Westwick Row in all probability at the present Westwick Cottage.  Although this cannot be proved, this seems particularly likely given that the special 12th century features found at Westwick Cottage by Alan Greening would appear to be of similar craftsmanship as those carried out used at the Abbey by Walter of Colchester, whose family were carpenters & craftsmen working at St. Albans Abbey during this period; and indicate at the very  least a close and highly influencial connection with Abbot and Chapter at the Abbey.  In Medieval Society influence doesn't come much greater than close links to the reigning monarch and their family.  Dame Celia, close friend and confident of  Princess Eleanor had sufficient influence to be allowed burial at the Altar in St. Albans Abbey on her death in 1251 She died "Universally regretted".  She was buried "with much honour" in front of the Altar of St. Andrew in St. Albans Abbey.  In addition to which of course the de Goreham family of Westwick were directly related to previous Abbots of St. Albans.  [VCH Vol II p.393; S329; S300]

1235 1263 - This was the time of the abbacy of John of Hertford.  Abbey accounts during this time show that Geoffrey de Goreham held a knight's fee of 6 hides of which he had 4 hides, with one smaller tenant. [S300]

1278      - William de Gorham died , seised of (i.e. owning or holding) half of the manor of Westwick. ( Quite what happened to the other half is unclear.  There are so many different references to various parcels of land in Westwick, its impossible to say whether they were all part of the original manor, or whether some parts of Westwick were held by others anyway.  For a while  I've found it a little confusing as to who left what part of Westwick to whom, but by 1329,I think I'm right in saying it was all together.  Following his death the manor was conveyed to John de Goreham and his wife Isabella for her lifetime, with the remainder to Alphonsos de Ver and his heirs. [VCH, Vol 2 p. 393/4 ; S300]


1306 - The earliest decriptive documentary evidence describing Westwick manor was a survey carried out  in 1306 for John de Gorham which described the Manor at Westwick.[B. Lib. Ms Cotton Tib E VI fol 236 v; S167 p.62.] The manor house comprised:

              " a hall with chambers; a chapel with a certain chamber; a storied edifice beyond the gate with a chamber.  A kitchen, a bakehouse, a dairy, a larder with a certain chamber, a granary with a chamber for the
bailiff, a dwelling for the servants of the manor, two cow houses, two sheep houses, a pig-sty and gardens".

There was also a second messuage called Newbury which had a dovecote, and which was valued about the same.  The valuation for the Manor was 40s; for Newberry Messuage 33s 4d; the rents and customary dues were £27 6s 7d; pleas and perquisites were 40s; fishing rights 2s; 13 acres of meadow were valued at 52s; 35 acres of wood at 8s 9d and 54 acres of pasture at 54s.  The record for the acreage of arable has been damaged, but the total area was about 822 acres valued at £24 12s.  The sum total being at least £63.[S103 p.102]  The survey also gives a list of all the arable fields, pasture, meadow and woods with their acreage and value.  [ S167, p.62 and p.94]


Virginia "Ginny" Goreham Wagner,  from Austin in Texas USA contacted me after visiting The LGChronicle website.  She is working on writing anovel about the early members of the Goreham family, from whom she is likley to be decended.  She has in her posession a book she was given as a young girl called  "Some Descendants of Captain John Gorham of Plymouth Colony in New York State and the Western Reserve" Compiled by Helen Hester King, B.S. and Linetta Ainsworth Daniels published in 1955.  The Foreword  to the book states: "The gathering together of all these threads, into a coherent, connected and permanent form, has been the goal toward which the compilers have labored for four years."   Ginny commented that: they did an accurate job documenting a strict lineage from Captain John Gorham to me (as well as others) born in 1948.  The compilers also note and give detailed reference to Geoffrey in Brittany 992AD, a knight Templar, Geoffrey at St. Albans and Sirs Henry, William, Hugh and another William de Gorham in the 1200 and 1300's but because they couldn't prove that Ralph was definitely the father of Captain John Gorham, they began the family tree with Captain John Gorham as First Generation and I am Eleventh Generation by that reckoning.  The book is apparently still available from this site:                                                                                                                                                    

Below are quoted some extracts from the book.

"After the conquest of England by William, the Conqueror, the control of the Church in England was systematically placed in the hands of the Norman conquerors.  During this time, the Norman monk, Geoffrey de Gorham, representing a branch of the noble Breton family, was urged in a letter to him, written by the 15th abbot of St. Albans, to come to England and succeed him.  Geoffrey de Gorham held this post form 1119 until his death, ae 1150.  [Geoffrey served until 1146 then died in 1160 by the information currently available]  He was buried in the cathedral.  That he was of noble blood is a matter of ecclesiastical history, records of which are in the British Museum, referring to him as 'that monk of noble birth--'

"His accomplishments during this regime, both worthy and questionable, 'balanced the ledger'.  On the one hand, he rebuilt the old chapel at St. Albans, together with an infirmary hall, and founded the hospital of St. Julian for poor lepers.  These buildings are of historic interest today.  On the other hand, he acquired title to vast holdings of the Church in Hertfordshire and neighboring counties, 'transferring and bequeathing them to kinsmen without the consent of the Church.'

"The Manor of Gorhambury, better known as Westwick-Gorham, built by Geoffrey, the abbot, was held by the family during the 12th and 13th Centuries, eventually passing into the hands of Sir Francis Bacon, who was host there to Queen Elizabeth at various times.  A ground plan of the Manor is shown in A HISTORY OF HERTFORDSHIRE, Vol. II, p. 393, 1908, with the following explanation:  'Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham built the hall for the use of his friends and kinsmen, benefactors of the Church'.  It is in the midst of a beautiful park and contains a good collection of portraits.

The paragraph above shows the compilers of the book couldn't have delved too far into old documents to verify information, or even visited the area as they obviously assume that the present day Gorhambury  (built between 1777 & 1784 for the 3rd Viscount Grinston) was not only the Gorhambury of the Bacons the ground plan of which was refered to  in "A History of Hertfordshire" and was built by Nicholas Bacon between 1563  and 1568, but the earlier medieval manor house of Gorhambury.  See page on the Manor of W estwick. [S20]

"At the urging of abbot Geoffrey de Gorham, various members of his family, including a brother William and a sister Olivia, emigrated to Gorhambury from Brittany, to receive his patronage.  The Manor was willed to his sister, whose husband took the name, de Gorham.  She died without issue and the Manor and other holdings eventually passed to the abbot's three nephews, Ive, Robert, and Ralph, sons of his brother, William.  This William had other sons, among them Henry, John, and Geoffrey.  'From the Gorrams of La Tannierre seem to have been derived at least three English families of distinction . . . The third branch was established in Northamptonshire in the middle of the 12th Century'.  Compilers at this point disagree as to which brother founded the Northampton and Lincolnshire branch of the family, but it seems most likely that it was Sir Henry.

"Sir Henry was the father of Sir William, who was the father of another Sir William, who was the father of Sir Hugh deGorham of Churchfield Manor in Lincolnshire (later Northamptonshire).  Sir Henry de Gorham held lands in Cransley and Flore, Northamptonshire, and in Wingrave and Rolvesham, Buckinghamshire in 1202 and 1208.  Sir William de Gorham possessed the same lands in 1233, and Sir Hugh de Gorham, in 1324.  In addition to having held the same lands as the Hertfordshire Gorhams, Sir Hugh de Gorham is assigned the same coat of arms as the Hertfordshire Gorhams, in Cook's VISITATIONS OF LINCOLNSHIRE(1) IN 1562.

"In addition to inheriting family estate, Sir Hugh was granted a quarter of a knight's fee in lands in Churchfield, Oundle and Warmington, Northamptonshire.  In the inquisition taken at Thropston is the following  'Hugh of Gorham holds of the abbot of Burgh in Churchfield, Oundle, and Warmington a quafter of a knight's fee and the abbot is mesne towards the King . . ' (Northampton Records Society, Henry of (Northampton Records Society, Henry of Pytchley's Book of Fees, Vol. 2, P. 120).  'He also held estates in Whaplode, Lincolnshire, in right of his wife, Margery, sole daughter and heiress of Sir William Angevin'.  (Burke's VISITATION OF THE SEATS AND ARMS, Vol. 2, p. 20, 1852);

"Details of his life are scarce, but we know that he was a Templar to Richard II, and that in 1324 he was called to Parliament.  In the account books of John Fider Reeve of the abbot of Crawland for his Manor of Wellingborough is found this interesting little item--'For the fodder of three horses of Lord Hugh de Gorham . . . 3 bus. of oats'.  He died in 1325, at 75 years of age, leaving three sons by his wife, Margery, -- William, Thomas, and Nicholas.

"Sir William, the son of Hugh de Gorham, inherited Gorham Manor in Churchfield, near Oundle, Northamptonshire, and sold it to the Bishop of Salisbury in 1332.  'In or about 1339, the Gorhams sold their possessions at Flore and at Cransley'.  Undoubtedly, the decline of the house of de Gorham followed the pattern of the times, in which the nobles lost most of their power and wealth. (2)

"'From that time on (1339) the family fell into obscurity and no traces of it are found until it reappears in the adjacent villages of Benefield and of Glapthorne' in the early part of the 16th Century.  (Benefield and Glapthorne are within a mile of Churchfield, the seat of the manor of Sir Hugh de Gorham.)

"There is a long gap between 1339, when the lands of Flore and Cransley were sold by Sir William de Gorham and the early part of the 16th Century, when John Gorham of Glapthorne was born.  He had two sons--John and James, by his wife, Eliza.  James was born about 1550.  John Gorham died in 1588.

"In 1572 James Gorham married Agnes Bernington, who was the mother of his son, Ralph, born in 1575.  Ralph was the father of John, who was baptized in Benefield in 1621.  Ralph and his family emigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts before October 1637."

(1)Northamptonshire was once a part of the Great See of Lincolnshire (The Index Library, Northampton Wills, Vol. 1, introduction).  Today the hamlet of Churchfield which was formerly in Oundle Parish, is now part of the Parish of Benefield, transferred in 1894.  (Ibid Vol. 1).
(2) Several factors contributed to the death blow dealt to the power of the nobles:  The Crusades, from which the nobles returned impoverished or did not return at all; the Black Death, which reduced the population to the point that farming was prostrate, land values were low, and many manors were broken up by the lords; the peasants' Revolt, seeds of which were planted in the results of the Black Death; and, finally, the 100 years' War and the War of the roses which ended in 1485.


The life of Christina of Markyate is a remarkable one, and one which, if time is taken to surf the Internet, can be seen to the centre of much intelectual thaught and discussion as her life forms the basis for many University courses troughout the English speaking world. What gives 21st century scholars considerable insight into her life is the fact that a biography was written about her by a monk who knew not only her, but her associates, and gives inside information of a very personal nature about Christina and her friends.  An excellent edition and translation of this biography is available from the Oxford University Press by C. H. Talbot and was published in 1959, and has been reissued in 1987. See   ; another site:   tells us:

A manuscript now in the British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius E.1, its edges charred in the Cotton Library fire in 1731, tells us in Latin the story of a remarkable young woman of the twelfth century, Theodora, who came to be named Christina, Anchoress, then Prioress, of Markyate.

/C.H. Talbot, The Life of Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth-Century Recluse , citing, p. 17, biographies of Godric of Finchale, Wulfric of Haselbury, Goscelin's Liber Confortatorius, Aelred's De Institutione Inclusarum for practice and theory of reclusion in this period; Christopher J. Holdsworth, 'Christina of Markyate,' Medieval Women, ed. Derek Baker (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978), pp. 185-204; The Life of Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth Century Recluse, ed. and trrans., C.H. Talbot (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997./

The account breaks off in the year 1142, but we know she was still living, 1155-6. The St Albans Psalter, together with the Vita St Alexis, is also associated with Christina of Markyate, making its way sometime after the Dissolution of the Monasteries to the English Benedictine monks at Lambspring, following that to St Godeharskirche at Hildesheim.  This Psalter has recently been studied and photographed for inclusion on the Internet  and can be accessed at:    This site also contains links to various essays concerning Christina and Abbot Geoffrey.

Her life is indeed fascinating and I would recommend the reader to find out more about her, and indeed there is due to be held an International  conference in St. Albans Abbey concerning Christina  in August 2003.  Click here for more details. As well as being an intimate of Abbot Geoffrey de Goreham ( more of that in a minute), it is likely that the Manor of Leverstock Green, alias Markate Oak was created as a gift by Geoffrey to Christina.  It certainly belonged to the Priory at Markyate, hense its name.  See The Manor of Market Oak.

In John Fines book "Who's who in the Middle Ages"  published by Anthony Blond in 1970 [S236], he says in the section on Christina of Markyate:

The last man in her life was Abbot Geoffrey of St. Alhans, with whom she had a deep and satisfying relationship in religion, though it provoked scandalous comments from many.  This fascinating character had become a monk by mistake, almost: he had been a schoolmaster at Dunstable, and had had a fire in which were burnt some valuable copes he had borrowed from the abbey as costumes for a play.  As compensation he had offered himself as a monk, and had risen fast because of his administrative skills, and his worldly know-how.  He was completely captivated by Christina, whom he called his 'girl', and was constantly referred to by her as 'beloved'.  He longed to be with her, and took no steps without her advice: she seemed to be able to know absolutely what he was doing, thinking-even wearingwhen he was not with her.  Indeed, the biography ends (the manuscript was damaged by fire and is incomplete) with a description of her fussing over him, and 'sensibly reproving him when his actions were not quite right...'

Because of the incompleteness of the text, we know almost nothing of Christina's last years.  In 1 I 5 5 she sent with the Abbot Robert (nephew, and next abbot but one at St. Albans to the Abbot Geoffrey) two mitres and a pair of sandals embroidered with her own hands as a gift to the Pope, the only ever Englishman to hold that office, Adiran VI (Nicholas Breakspear of Kings Langley).  Within a year she died.

See for information on Pope Arian VI.

The St. Albans Psalter
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