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Greed, Lies & the Walerond Inheritance
Intrigue in De La Bere Family 

During the mid fourteenth century the Royal Commissioners heard an on-going court case which proves that at least one branch of the De la Bere family managed to get a foothold into Herefordshire at an early period. The case concerns the estate of Robert Walerond, Lord of Kilpeck Castle, and those who claimed to be his heirs.

Robert Walerond died in 1272, seized of vast estates all over the country centred on Kilpeck in Herefordshire. His lands were inherited successively by his nephews, Robert and then John, but by the end of the thirteenth century the two boys were dead, and the path of the inheritance was unclear.

Robert Senior was the son of Sir William Walerond and Isabel daughter of Roger De Berkeley. Though the father of his two nephews, William, was his only full sibling, he did have at least three half-sisters through his mother. Sybil, the eldest, (wife of both Hugh De Plugenet and Andrew De la Bere) was daughter of Isabel's first husband, Josce De Dinan. Alice (wife of both Alan De Plugenet (grandson of Hugh) and John De Eddeworth) and Cecily (wife of John De Everingham) were daughters of Isabel's third husband, Thomas De Rocheford.

At the death of the young John Walerond, his guardian, Alan, Baron De Plugenet, son of the above mentioned Alan and Alice (De Rocheford) De Plugenet, not only claimed his rightful inheritance passed down from his grandmother, but also the Walerond inheritance of her second husband! This should not have been possible, but Baron De Plugenet deceived the inheritance courts into believing that his mother was in fact a daughter of Lady Isabel and Sir William Walerond, and not of Thomas De Rocheford! Though his son, Alan, 2nd Baron De Plugenet, was sued (unsuccessfully) for his fraudulent claims by Richard De la Bere (great grandson of Andrew and Sybil (De Dinan) De la Bere), the 1st Baron De Plugenet lived a long and prosperous life at Kilpeck Castle.

The Walerond estates were not to remain forever in De Plugenet hands, however. The 2nd Baron De Plugenet was the last of the male line, dying in 1325; and his sister, Joan, Baroness Plugenet, wife of Henry De Bohun, a relation of the Earl of Hereford, died childless two years later. So Richard De la Bere evidently decided it was his turn to try a little fraud. After all, it had worked so well for his cousins.

Countess of Hereford's Monument in Hereford CathedralOn the death of the Baroness Plugenet in 1327, her lands reverted to the King; but it wasn't long before Richard came forward to claim his supposed rights. He asserted, in court, that he was not descended from Andrew De la Bere and his wife Sybil De Dinan. Instead he claimed that Andrew's wife had been Alice De Walerond (alias De Rocheford), and that Alan, 1st Baron De Plugenet, was a bastard son of Andrew, born while Alice was still married to Alan De Plugenet Senior! And he got away with it! In 1331, Edward III turned the Walerond lands over to Richard De la Bere. He took up residence at Kilpeck Castle and lived happily ever after.

Life, however, was not so jolly for Richard’s son and eventual heir, Thomas. Twenty-six years later, in 1353, Sybil, the widow of Alan, 2nd Baron De Plugenet finally died. She had been holding half of her husband’s estates in dower, so this ought to have been a happy occasion for the man who was now to inherit all of the Walerond lands. However, something went wrong. The crown set up an enquiry into the rights of the De la Bere family over Kilpeck, Hazelbury Plucknet and the other etsates. Thomas, like his father insisted that he was the great grandson of a brother “of the whole blood” of Alan, 1st Baron De Plugenet, and thus entitled to the inheritance of his ancestor, Sir William Walerond. Although the exact ruling of the commissioners is unknown, they certainly did not look favourably on Thomas’s claims, for he never regained his lands, and Kilpeck Castle was granted to the Baroness' step-son.

Thomas then disappears from the records, and nothing else is known about him or his family. His grandfather, Richard, may well be the man who retired to the manor of Westcote, near Binstead, in North Hampshire. He died there in 1333, and his striking effigy, recording his alias of Richard De Westcote, can still be seen in the parish church. References to his will, dated 11th November 1332, in the Records of London’s Husting Court show that he owned land in the Capital. To his daughter, Joan, he left some “houses lately built by me in Phelipes Lane for life”. It is not even clear from where this branch of the De la Bere family stem. It is possible Andrew De la Bere was uncle to Simon De la Bere of Thornham.


    © David Nash Ford 2001. All Rights Reserved.