William Espec
Walter Espec


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Adeline de Beauchamp

Walter Espec

  • Born: Old Warden, Bedfordshire, England
  • Marriage: Adeline de Beauchamp
  • Died: 1153, Abbey of Rievaulx, Yorkshire, England
  • Buried: Abbey of Rievaulx, Yorkshire, England

bullet  General Notes:

~ Keats-Rohan, Domesday People, p. 496. he was a Domesday tenant-in-chief of Old Wardon, Beds.

~ Keats-Rohan, Domesday Descendants p. 671, Robert I de Ros of Helmsley, Yorkshire, son of Peter de Ros (d.a. 1130) and Adeline, daughter of Walter Espec, lord of Helmesly. 1027

A History of the County of York North Riding, Volume I, pp. 485-505, calls Walter the brother of Adeline. 1211

bullet  Noted events in his life were:

• Background Information. 902
Walter Espec, the founder of Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, was probably the son of William Espec, who in 1085 held Warden, Bedfordshire, where some fifty years later Walter Espec founded and endowed an abbey [Domesday Book, vol. i. 214 b, 215 a; Dugdale, v. 280]. Espec's chief property was in Yorkshire, and he resided at Helmsley. Under Henry I he was justice of the forests and itinerant justice in the northern counties. Under Stephen he actively resisted the Scotch invasion. On 10 Jan. 1138 FitzDuncan failed in a night attack on Espec's castle of Wark. Then King David and his son Henry came up and formed a regular siege for three weeks, after which the main body passed on to harry Northumberland. Three months later (cir. 8 May) the garrison swooped down upon the Scotch king's commissariat, and had to submit to a second siege. The castle was stoutly defended by Walter's nephew, John de Bussey, but had to surrender about 11 Nov. Two months previously (22 Aug.) Espec was one of the leaders of the battle of the Standard. According to Ailred of Rievaulx, Espec was at the time regarded by the other barons of the north as their 'dux et pater' [De Bello Stand. ap Twysden, pp. 346-7]. He was already an aged man [ib. p. 337], and there is no reason for doubting the tradition which makes him withdraw in 1152 into the abbey of Kirkham, which he had founded in 1121, and where he is said to have died 7 March 1153 [Cotton MS, Vitell. F. 4, quoted in Dugdale].

Ailred, abbot of Rievaulx, describes his patron as a man of immense height and build, with black hair, full beard, broad features, and trumpet voice. Having no surviving children by his wife Adelina, he founded the Cistercian abbeys of Rievaulx, Yorkshire, and Warden, Bedfordshire, the former in 1131, and the latter in 1135, besides the priory for Augustinian canons at Kirkham, Yorkshire. According to tradition, Espec's son and namesake fell from his horse and broke his neck about 1121 while still a young man. This led his father to found the abbey of Kirkham, over which he set his uncle, William Garton, as first prior (1132). The foundation charter mentions the name of William Rufus, from which it would appear that Espec at one time had been on friendly relations with his king. Archbishop Thurston of York aided in his pious works, and the concession of the lands was sanctioned by Espec's heiresses, his sisters, Hawisa Bussey, and Albreda Traylye, Adelina Roos, with their husbands and children.

It was from Espec that Lady Constance FitzGilbert, or her husband Ralph, borrowed the copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth which Geoffrey Gaimar used for his 'Estoire des Engles.' Espec procured it from Earl Robert of Gloucester [Geoffrey Gaimar, ap. Monumenta Historica Britannica, p. 829 a).

[Sources given by author: Dugdale's Monasticon, ed. 1817, v. 280 et seq., vi. 207 et seq., 369; Richard of Hexham; Chronicle of Melrose, Henry of Huntingdon, sub ann. 1132, 1138; Foss's Judges.]

The Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. VI, pp. 868-689

• Background Information. 1420
"Of the founder himself a vivid picture has been drawn by Aelred, the third Abbot of Rievaulx, in his account of the battle of the Standard [Cited Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 209]. He describes Walter Espec as at that time an old man, full of days, of quick wit, foreseeing in counsel, sober-minded in peace, wary in war, always keeping friendship with his companions, and faith with kings; a tall, big man with black hair, a full beard, an open and free countenance, with large and keensighted eyes, and a voice like a trumpet. Noble in the flesh, Aelred says, but nobler far for his Christian piety."

"The Priory of Kirkham," A History of the County of York, Volume III, pp. 219-222

The abbey of Rievaulx, the earliest Cistercian monastery in the county, was founded in 1131 by Walter Espec [Dugdale, Mon. Angl. v, 274], who gave to certain of the monks sent to England about 1128 by St. Bernard from Citeaux land near Helmsley, in the valley of the Rye, on the north side of which the monastery was built.

Having founded the abbey of Warden, Walter Espec entered the abbey of Rievaulx as a monk, and died and was buried there [Chartul. of Rievaulx (Surt. Soc), 264.].

"The Abbey of Rievaulx," A Histroy of the County of York, Volume III, pp. 149-153

• Background Information. 1211
A church was founded here by William 'the noble,' probably William Espec, and Bilsdale was in 1145 given by Walter Espec to Rievaulx Abbey [Burton, Mon. Ebor. 359.]. Walter Espec was the foremost noble of his time in the northern counties. He was justice of the forests and justice itinerant of the northern counties under Henry I and commanded at the battle of the Standard on the English side in 1138. He died in about 1153 [Dict. Nat. Biog].

Walter Espec's heirs were the sons of his three sisters Hawise, Aubrey and Odelina, married respectively into the families of Bussy, Trailly and Roos (Ros). Odelina by her husband Peter de Roos had sons Everard and Robert [Rievaulx Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 21]. In 1157-8 Robert rendered account of 1,000 marks for the land of Walter Espec, [Hunter, Gt. R. of the Pipe, 2-4 Hen. II (Rec. Com.), 146] and confirmed the grants of Walter to Rievaulx Abbey for the souls of his father and his brother Everard [Rievaulx Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 21]. Robert had a son Everard, [Ibid. 23] who was in 1166 a minor in the custody of the sheriff, [Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 432] and in 1174-5 paid fine for his lands [Pipe R. 21 Hen. II (Pipe R. Soc.), 167, 169]. Everard left a son Robert called Furfan, [Rievaulx Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 25.] who had livery in 1190-1, [Rievaulx Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 26n.] and built the castle of Helmsley.

A History of the County of York, North Riding, Volume I, pp. 485-505

Walter married Adeline de Beauchamp.

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