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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Milo Fitz Walter's third daughter


The

'Annals' of Giraldus, relative to the reign of Henry I., inform us that the Castle of St. Briavel's, or Brulails was now built by Milo Fitz-Walter, with the design of confirming the royal authority in the neighbourhood, and of checking the inroads of the Welsh; but, extensive as its ruins still are, they seem to contain no trace of so early a period. The only vestige of that age is seen in the Parish Church, which stands opposite the north entrance of the castle. Henry created Fitz-Walter Earl of Hereford, and committed the castle of St. Briavel's, and the district adjoining, to his care. The 'Itinerary' of the same writer speaks of "the noble Forest of Dean, by which Gloucester was amply supplied with iron and venison." Tithes of the latter were given by this King to the Abbey there.

[Picture: South side of the Nave in St. Briavel's Church]

In the fifth year of the succeeding reign of Stephen, by whom the gifts just mentioned were confirmed, the Forest of Dean, that is, its royal quitrents, were granted to Lucy, Milo Fitz-Walter's third daughter, upon her marrying Herbert Fitz-Herbert, the King's chamberlain, and progenitor to the present Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery. So profuse a gift on such an occasion may seem almost incredible; but its tenure, we must remember, was precarious, the Forest itself being continually exposed to danger by its proximity to the Welsh border. Mahel was this lady's

youngest brother, of whom Camden records that "the judgment of God overtook him for his rapacious ways, inhumane cruelties, and boundless avarice, always usurping other men's rights. For, being courteously treated at the Castle of St. Briavel's by Walter de Clifford, the castle taking fire, he lost his life by the fall of a stone on his head from the highest tower." It should be observed, however, that, according to Sir R. C. Hoare, Camden is mistaken in placing the scene of Mahel's catastrophe in the Forest of Dean; Brendlais, or Bynllys, as mentioned by Giraldus, being a small village on the road between Hereford and Hay, where a stately tower marks the site of the ancient castle of the Cliffords, in which most likely this tyrant lost his life.

In this year also, A.D. 1140, the Abbey of Flaxley was founded by Roger, the Earl of Hereford's eldest son, by whom it was partially endowed, and who named it "the Abbey of St. Mary de Dene," the site being formerly included in the precincts of the Forest. The institution of the Abbey was confirmed by Henry II., who further enriched it by granting permission to the monks to feed their cattle, hogs, &c., in the Forest, repair their buildings with its timber, and have an iron-forge there. In course of years the Fitz-Herbert interest in the Forest and Castle of St. Briavel's, passing through the families of Henry de Bohun and Bernard de Newmarch, was released by the former to King John, who granted them at the close of his reign to John de Monmouth. The 'Itinerary' of this monarch shows that he often visited the neighbourhood, no doubt for the diversions of the chase, viz.:--


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