More Despenser Ancestors

In my last post I looked at the earliest known ancestors of Hugh Despenser the younger (d,1326). In this one I shall continue my trip down the direct male line of descent by uncovering a few more.

The previous post finished with Ansketil, son of Hugh de Berges and an un-named sister of Thurstan de Queniburgh. Ansketil married a woman called Rohese and they had three sons: Hugo de Berges (also known as Hugh de Prestwold), Geoffrey le Despenser and Ivo de Alspath.

Hugh de Prestwold, presumably the eldest son.

Ivo de Alspath became constable of Coventry at some point after 1178. He is also shown as a witness to some charters of the Earls of Chester along with his brother, Geoffrey.

Geoffrey le Despenser is the first of the line to bear the title (and later surname) of Despenser. He appears as a witness to charters for the earls of Chester as ‘ Gaufrido dispensatore’. The title of despenser or dispensatore was another term for steward – so Geoffrey had managed to find himself quite a high ranking position in the Chester household.

It appears that Geoffrey had two sons: Thomas and Elias. Thomas continued in the role of dispensator to the earls of Chester and appears regularly in documents as a witness to grants. He was also fined 40 shillings in 1176 for the crime of trespassing in the forest in Leicestershire. When his brother Elias died, Thomas was his successor and inherited the manors of Arnesby and Loughborough in the county of Leicester. He married ‘Recuara’, which may be a mis-translation of another name and they had seven children:

  • Geoffrey – died before 1191
  • Thomas le Despenser of Loughborough – died before 1218
  • Sir Hugh – died 1238
  • Rohese – married Stephen de Segrave
  • Henry – died after 1213
  • Robert – died after 1215
  • Geoffrey le Despenser of Martley – died 1251

The son that we are interested in here is Sir Hugh. Although not the eldest son and heir, when his two older brothers died, he inherited Arnesby and Loughborough, the family manors and also seems to have acquired Burton, Hugglescote and Freeby in Leicestershire and Ryhall and Belmesthorpe in Rutland along the way. Once again, he seems to have followed the family trade of acting as steward to the Earls of Chester and in 1207 was even acting on behalf of the king. Another family tradition seems to have been the making and confirming of grants to Garendon Abbey and Hugh was no exception, gifting them “two messuages and three virgates of land in the same town with men holding them, their chattels and all that goes with them”.

In 1221, King Henry granted Hugh a charter for a market and a fair at Loughborough “to be held at the manor until the king came of age”. A Thursday market for the manor was later confirmed in 1227. It appears that the Despenser star was rising, one that would keep ascending until 38 years later.

Unfortunately there is no record of Hugh’s wife’s name but it is conjectured that she may have been a daughter of Saier IV de Quincy, Earl of Winchester and Margaret de Beaumont. If so, then this is yet another indication of Hugh’s standing in terms of royal and court favour. Hugh and his wife had three children:

Pernell – who married Geoffrey le Sauvage (d.1230)

An un-named daughter who married Roger St. John

Sir Hugh (1223-1265) – Known as ‘The Justiciar’ who famously died at the Battle of Evesham by the side of Simon de Montfort.

In the next post I will take a detailed look at the life and career of Sir Hugh Despenser, Justiciar of England 1260-1261.