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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

The Asthorpes:

Asthorpe Family Line

Mystery still surrounds Sir William Asthorpe who with his wife, Lady Margaret (née Dynham), obtained the licence to crenellate Hemyock Castle.

This page presents some information gleaned so far: Comments welcome.

Asthorpe Shield
Asthorpe Shield

Sir William lived during the interminable "Hundred Years War" between England and France. Records show that he held many important roles during the reigns of Kings Edward III and Richard II. His position as a trusted courtier and "king's man" is probably why he was given permission to marry the young heiress Margaret Dynham. It is likely that he was later tasked with countering the power of the local land-owners; probably why he was also granted permission to crenellate his Hemyock manor house.

Sir William's task countering the powerful local land-owners may explain some of the accusations and conflicts during his later life, and the accusations after his death: The powerful local land-owners had supported the removal of King Richard II and his replacement by King Henry IV.

Sir William was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer (~1343 to October 1400), courtier and well-known author of The Canterbury Tales. It is likely that they met at least in London, and after June 1391 when Geoffrey Chaucer was appointed Deputy Forester in the royal forest of Petherton Park nearby at North Petherton, Somerset.

Sir William presumably had an important father, but was he perhaps actually an illegitimate son of the Peverells from nearby Sampford Peverell?

Sir William died on Wednesday before St. Dionysius (ie. Wednesday 8th October) 1399, shortly after Lady Margaret, his wife. It is not known whether his death was natural, or was connected with the turmoil at the end of the reign of King Richard II, when that king was deposed and then murdered.

Because he was "illegitimate" and died without an heir, Sir William's estates were taken into the King's hands before some eventually reverted to his wife's family, the Dynhams.

Alternative Spellings

There appear to be possible alternatives spelling of his name, including:

According to John Astrop of North Devon, the name may derive from the Old English for "East Thorpe". The names appear in records of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. They may have been Viking.

This source lists many other possible alternative spellings including:
Astrop, Astrup, Aisthorpe, Aistrope, Aysthorpe, Austrop, Austropp, Awstrope, etc.

Some Possible Relatives

References in the Patent Rolls, Fine Rolls and Close Rolls include:

1345, June 28, Westminster:
Pardon to Robert, son of Theobald de Hasthorpe of his outlawry in the county of York...

1347, Oct 12, Windsor:
Complaint against Thomas de Hassethorpe...

1348, Jan 23, Westminster:
Presentation of Church of Asthorpe in Diocese of Lincoln...

Link with Robin Hood Legend?

Was Sir William Asthorpe connected with the Robin Hood legend?

According to a popular version of this legend, Robin Hood and his followers were remnants of the defeated rebel army of Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster. They had been declared "outlaws." Thomas's archers apparently wore Lincoln Green tunics.

Lancaster had led a rebellion against his cousin, King Edward II. In 1322, forces commanded by Sir Andrew de Harclay, Warden of the Western Marches, soundly defeated Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge north east of York. (This battle demonstrated the devastating power of tactics using archers equipped with the English longbow. Longbowmen were later decisive at the battles of Cressy (Crécy) in 1346 and Agincourt (Azincourt) in 1415.)

Lancaster sought sanctuary in a local church but was dragged out and taken to York. He was tried as a traitor and executed. The remnants of his defeated army were declared "outlaws." Thus many of his followers were dispossessed of their lands. During the reign of King Edward III (1327 to 1377) some of these men won pardons. Some fought for the king.

According to legend, Robin Hood came from a prominent family but was declared an outlaw and dispossessed.

Records show that several men named Hasthorpe or Hassethorpe were involved in outlawry in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire during the decades after the battle of Borough bridge. Some were later pardoned. Could Sir William Asthorpe have been related to these outlaws?

The Lancastrians gained the throne of England in 1399 when King Henry IV deposed Richard II. Sir William and Lady Margaret Asthorpe both died in 1399.

A modern link?

In 2003, "Nick Aisthorpe" ran successfully in Nottingham's "Robin Hood" Marathon.

Some References to Sir William Asthorpe

References in the Patent Rolls, Fine Rolls, Close Rolls and Inquisitions include:

Reign of King Edward III

1346, July 15, Windsor:
(William Hasthorp of the manor of Kynemersdon, Somerset, vassal of Sir Ralph Daubene)
Licence for Ralph Daubene, chivaler, to enfeoff Ralph Daubene, parson of the church of Brenbroghton, and William Hasthorp of the manor of Kynemersdon, held in chief, and for them to re-grant the same to him and Katherine, his wife, in tail, with remainder to his right heirs.
By fine of 20 marks. Somerset.

1360, June 4, Westminster:
(Pardon for a killing)
Pardon, for good service done in the war of France, ...
William de Hasthorp, for the death of John Traveys.
By p.s.

1363, May 6, Westminster:
(William de Hasthorp, lord of the hundred of Hemyock)
Commission of oyer and terminer....
...to John Moubray Edmund de Chelreye, and John Loterel, on complaint by William de Hasthorp that, whereas he as lord of the hundred of Hemyok, co. Devon, deputed his men and servants...

1365, Oct 7, Westminster:
(William de Asthorp, exemption for life ...)
Exemption for life of William de Asthorp from being put on assizes, juries or recognitions, and from appointment as mayor, sheriff, escheator, coroner or other bailiff or minister of the king, against his will.

1367, Feb 10, Westminster:
(William Austhorp deputizes for the keeper of the Channel Islands)
Writ de intendendo to the jurats, consuls, stewards, reeves, officers and other ministers and lieges of the islands of Jereseye, Gernereye, Serk and Aureneye, in favour of William de Austhorp and John Cok, appointed by Walter Huwet, to whom the king has committed the keeping of the said islands and the islands adjacent from 2 April next, and who is staying in Brittany about the expedition of certain of the king's affairs, to be his lieutenants during his absence, as the king's yeomen, Thomas Cheyne, general attorney of the said Walter, has testified before the king.

1373, April 20, Westminster: (Click for full text.)
(Sir William Asthorp appointed as keeper of the Channel Islands)
Commitment to William de Asthorp, chivaler of the keeping of the islands of Gernesey, Jereseye, Serk and Aurney, and the other isles adjacent thereto, and of the king's castle of Gurri in Jeresey and his castle Cornet and the tower Beauregard in Gernesey, to hold for 9 years from 1 May next, taking for such keeping all the profits, revenues and advantages thereof ...
... in order to avoid the perils which might arise by hostile attacks.
By K. and C.

1377, March 2, Westminster:
(Sir William Asthorp represents Devon at the final parliament of King Edward III)
...knights of the shire at the parliament summoned at Westminster in the quinzaine of St Hilary last, to have of the commons of the county, cities and boroughs excepted from which citizens and burgesses came thither, ... for their expenses in coming thither, there abiding, and thence returning to their own again, namely 4s. a day ...
... Devon. William Asthorp and Thomas Courtenay 18l. for 45 days.

Reign of King Richard II

1377, July 1, Westminster:
(Sir William Asthorp helps organize the defence of Devon)
Commission of array to ....
Guy de Brien, Philip de Courtenay, Peter de Courtenaye, John Pomeray, William Asthorp, Martin Ferers, John Prestecote and the sheriff, in the county of Devon....
... to array and equip all the men of that county and to keep ever arrayed the men-at-arms and archers to resist foreign invasion, according to the form of the like commission of the late king, causing beacons to be set up in the usual places to give notice of the arrival of the enemy.

1377, August 14, Westminster:
(Tax bill of Sir William Asthorp)
To Robert Hull escheator in Devon. Order to deliver to Margaret who was wife of Hugh de Courteney earl of Devon ...
...the moiety of one knight's fee in Eggesford, and the sixth part of one knight's fee in Midleton held by William Asthorp knight, ....

1377, August 22, Westminster:
(Sir William Asthorp helps organize the defence of Devon)
Association of John de Beaumond, John Danmarl and Richard Braunsecombe with Guy de Bryen, Philip de Courtenay, Peter de Courtenay, John Pomeray, William Asthorp, Marrin Ferrers, John Prescote and the sheriff of Devon in the commission for arraying all men-at-arms, archers, and others, in that county to resist invasion.

1380, Jan 20, Westminster:
(Financial dealings of Sir William Asthorp)
Licence, for 20l. paid to the king by William Asthorp, knight, for the said William and Margaret his wife to enfeoff John de Copleston and Walter Leverych of their manors of Sandford Peverell and Allerepeverell and of the advowson of the church of Sandford Peverell, held in chief, that after seisin had they may grant the same to the said William and Margaret, in fee tail, and ultimate remainder to the heirs of the said William.

1380, March 20, Westminster:
(Sir William Asthorp helps organize the defence of Devon)
Commission to Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon, Guy de Brien, Philip Courtenay, John Pomeray, William Bonevill, Richard Stapilton, and William Asthorp, knights, Martin Ferrers, James Chuddele, and the sheriff of Devon, to array and equip all the men of that county between the ages of 16 and 60, and to keep them, the men-at-arms, hobelers and archers, in readiness to resist foreign invasion; with power to arrest and imprison the disobedient.
By C. in Parl.

1380, Oct 23, Westminster:
(William de Asthorp, exemption for life – renewal and confirmation)
Inspeximus and commission in favour of William Asthorp, of letters patent dated 7 October, 39 Edward III, (ie. 1365) exempting him, for life, from being put on assizes, etc.
For ½ mark paid in the hanaper.

1385, May 20, Westminster:
(William Asthorp, Sheriff of Devon)
Commission to the sheriff of Devon, William Asthorp, and John Orewell, king's serjeant-at-arms, to arrest Simon Carselac, hosteler, Sibyl his wife .......

1390, May 18, Westminster:
(William Asthorp, keeper of Marlborough Castle, 1387 to 1389)
Commission to John de Lovell, Ralph Cheyney and William Sturmy, knights, John Wykyng and John Gawayn to survey Marlebergh castle and the armaments and other things therein to inquire concerning all defects and waste to the castle and its buildings.

Inquisition taken before the said Ralph and John Wykyng. Marleberwe. Saturday before the Nativity of St Mary, 1391:

There are of the king's goods in the said castle 40 votmel of lead in old sheets worth 4s. the votmel, 50 pounds of old iron, being old hooks and hinges of doors and windows-bars, worth 2s. 1d., and 2 bells in the chapel not hung worth 10l. .....

..... The barn was damaged in the years 3 and 4 Richard II, while Robert Power was the keeper ..... and in the years 10, 11 and 12 Richard II, while William Asthorp was the keeper ......

1391, Nov. 26, Westminster:
Pardon and remission to William Asthorp, knight – in consideration of his poverty and the malice of his enemies who procured the judgement ....
.... for refusing to be impanelled ....

Reign of King Henry IV

1403, April 4, Westminster:
(After the deaths of Sir William Asthorpe and King Richard II)
Commission to Humphrey de Stafford, knight, the father, William Stourton, Thomas Bonham, William Besill and the sheriff of co. Wilts. to inquire concerning the information that much waste, ruin, dilapidation and destruction has many times been committed as well in the castle and barton or manor of Marlborough .....

Inquisition before Thomas Bonham and William Besiles. Salisbury. Thursday before St. Thomas the apostle, 1403:

The said castle has been injured and wasted in many ways in the time of Robert Power, William Asthorp and William Scrop, late constables, to what amount the jurors do not know. ....

Sir William Asthorpe was also involved with the de Spencers, later of Althorp, ancestors of Princess Diana.

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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