By Brian Goddard, Newbury, England

published by GAE, March 1992

In his acceptance speech for last year’s Howard Goddard-Jones Memorial (Newsletter No. 20), Dr John Harms suggested that a fruitful area of research might well be on the origins of the de Godarvilles. Although there is clearly much more to do, Brian of Newbury has made a good start. Here is the result of his first foray

“Richard Hennot, Henry Coluns (Colmis), William Morin, William de Grangea, Robert son of Ralph, Gilbert de Aula, Luke Guile,..... son of the Clerk [filius clerci], Symon de Chyverel, Nicholas de la Hele, Thomas le Blund, and William Gole say that Walter de Goderville held in the town of Chyverel in Co. Wilts of Sir John de Balun 2 carucates 1 of land by the service of one knight’s fee and they are worth, clear, £11 2s 3/4d.

Joan and Margery are the daughters and next heirs of the said Walter; the said Joan is 15 and the said Margery is 6 years.

The said Walter did not hold any other land in the said county except the land of Chuppenham, which he held of the King in chief.

John de Eston, Walter Drew, Thomas Bubbe, Ralph de Foxcote, Elyas de Caillewar, Richard de Hertham, William de Aiswell, Walter son of the parson [fil pson], Roger de Lek .....senior, Richard Home, James the reeve, and John de Wyte say that Walter de Goderville held of the King in chief 2 carucates of land in the manor of Chuppenham [Sheldon Manor], by the service of the fourth part of a knight’s fee: they are worth per annum, clear ….s 1 d. He also held of the King in the said manor one virgate 2 by the service of one bow of ‘auburn’, worth per annum” of the land of purpresture 3 in the said manor, for which he ought to pay yearly 2 marks, and it is not worth anything more per annum.”
Chan. Inq., p.m. 34 Henry III, No. 20.

This, together with the Curiae Regis Rolls 5 for the 2 January 1259, which places the Bedfordshire lands of Walter in the hands of a caretaker after his death in Ireland, (probably late 1247 or early 1248), confirms that he did not leave a male heir to carry on his branch of the family. We now have to commiserate with those who have lost a very distant relative! From the Post Mortem of Walter de Goderville it appears that there is now no possibility that he was the progenitor of the Wiltshire, or any other, Goddards,

His last wife, Hilary (de Malesmaines), is obviously dead by the time of the inquest in 1249, but it is not clear what his daughters, Joan and Margery, inherited apart from the lease on the Chippenham land. This type of inquest was only interested in the disposal of land. As for Waiter, he did not appear to own any land; he only leased or managed it. He farmed some 350 acres in each of Cheverell and Chippenham; additionally he held a further area of about 30 acres of apparently very poor land also in the Chippenham Manor. Land in other counties would have been investigated in other local post mortem or, as in Bedfordshire, disposal would have been by direct decree of the king. From other evidence it appears that Joan (Johanna) inherited the lease of the land in Chippenham Manor (Sheldon); this is where she lived after her marriage to Gaifrid (Geoffrey) Gascelin, which was possibly soon after her 14th birthday and before her father’s death.

There is a story that Margery mysteriously disappeared in Ireland 6 after her father’s death and did not claim her half of the inheritance.

Looking at the documents currently available regarding Walter de Godarville, the first suggestion that Sir Walter was a Wiltshire Goddard is in Burke’s History of the Commoners of 1838 when he is given as being an early member of the Wiltshire family; but it is now felt that this was conjecture on the part of the un-named researchers, particularly since they have had to invent a brother to inherit when the facts did not appear to fit together. It is of note that this story does not feature in the well researched family tree by Phillipps in 1824, nor in earlier documents. Richard Jeffries 7 does not repeat the story, but he must have read it because he researched the Godarville inquest and other Godarville documents. He had also read other papers regarding various Walters, but got so mixed up that he had condensed about 200 years and at least two Walters into one paragraph, making his version totally unintelligible. It now looks as if he deliberately suppressed the inquest findings. The connection that Richard Jeffries made between Sir Walter and the Goddards of North Wiltshire ‘is in all probability mythical 8; if not, why is there no trace of a Coat of Arms of Sir Walter in any of the Wiltshire branches?

If Burke, an acknowledged authority on genealogy, can get badly wrong both the name of the son of the first Duke of Marlborough and the name of the Cambridge college where that son died, what trust do we put in their other, more minor, facts? Both the Burke researcher and Richard Jeffries were commissioned to write up the family histories and to show them in the best possible light. Getting titled members into the families (particularly those of politicians) was all the rage with the Victorians, but they must have been very desperate to have to go back 600 years to find one that could fit, no matter how tenuously.

Most of the currently known documentation (with the exception of the two documents in this paper) is referred to in the Goddard Book Vol.II, and much valiant work was done by Mrs. Treva Watchman in the collection of this information. However, there are so many conflicts within this particular collection of Godarville information: items with some information missing, other document which have been mis-transcribed, with clerical errors in the original medieval précis, or slight errors in translation 9 - Isabell was his sister-in-law not his wife - or - the sons of Agnes Picot not the sons of Walter - and misinterpretation (dower 10 is not the same as dowry), all minor individual errors. These errors are only to be expected with the time scale of 700 years and the number of people that have been involved in writing, in the précis, transcription, translation, and editing of each of the documents.

With the reports of the Bedfordshire and Wiltshire Post Mortem Inquisitions and the following detail from The Cartulary of Blyth Priory11 , regarding Walter de Godarvilles first marriage, it is now possible to see a slightly clearer picture:

‘Johanna’s (de Meinil) first husband was Philip (de Styrrup) of Oldcoates with whom she is mentioned in 1208. This marriage ended with Philip’s death by 1221, for in that year the king "commanded Daniel, son of Nicholas, constable of Newcastle 12, to permit Oliver de Albiniacoto take as his wife she who had been the wife of Philip of Oldcoates and who was then in the castle of Newcastle”. This marriage took place before 13 February 1221, with the king’s consent, but Oliver de Albenia seems to have died before 18 August 1221. In 1226 the king took the homage of Ralf Musard of the lands of Walter de Godarvill and Johanna, his wife, sister of Isabella (the said Ralf’s wife), held of Isabella’s inheritance.13  Johanna’s third husband was, therefore, Walter de Godarville.’

This means that Johanna was also dead by 1226 and was not the mother of either Johanna or Margery, and that Walter controlled land in Nottingham for only a few years. It also implies that it was a forced marriage, as Johanna did not leave the land to him and he would not pass it over to the legatees in good grace, but had to be forced by the court to do so. (This was not the only occasion).

Probably both of Walter’s known marriages (was there a third marriage between 1225 and 1231?) would have been arranged at the king’s request through a third party (similar to the Johanna and Oliver marriage). Johanna was probably in her late 40s with land, while Hilary was very young with land (Hilary was made a ward of her aunt when her father died in 1220). Marriage was a convenient way to ensure that the king had loyal subjects, although under Norman law a daughter would succeed her father, if there was no son, as co-heir with any sisters, but a woman could not marry without her lord’s permission. Frequently the king gave heiresses in marriage to his friends, or to the highest bidder! Walter had married well above his station at least once, and also married into a significant income from the lands he inherited by the arranged marriages.

One thing that is significant is that there is no evidence, so far, that shows any of the land that we know Walter managed remained in the Goddard family after his death. Even Hilary’s land at Petersham in Dorset would have gone to the Gascelin family, if it was not disposed of in her will to her relatives.

Walter de Godarville may not have been a Wiltshire Goddard, but a Goddard he was. Goddards are lucky (not to be born a Smith for a start!); Walter was in the right place at the right time, he survived being put to death twice, once by the Prince Louis of France and then for treason against Henry III. He was married at least twice, perhaps enforced marriages, but he gained from each union great financial reward and a job that kept him away from home!

For those with the Wiltshire family tree - sorry! But for those people hailing from Shropshire, Norfolk or Kent, ‘have I got news for you!’ Well, maybe!


  1. Carucate - as much land as an eight-ox team could maintain in cultivation, 160 to 180 acres; also a unit of taxation.
  2. Virgate - usually thirty acres of arable land scattered among the common fields of a manor, a ‘yardland’ or a quarter of a ‘hide’.
  3. Purpresture - an encroachment on land, especially on deer pasture, under forest laws or in other royal lands.
  4. Wiltshire Inquisitiones Post Mortem collected and translated in 1908; a copy is held in the Wiltshire Record Office in Trowbridge.
  5. Translation from Latin in the Goddard Book Vol.ll
  6. Letter from Mrs Watchman of August 1991. “Sir Galfrid Gascelin sent a man to bring Margery back from the castle of Trim in Ireland but no trace of her was ever found.”
  7. Memoir of the Goddards of North Wilts, written in 1873. It is said that this commission provided the money for his marriage.
  8. The message Mrs Watchman gives in her comments on p. 765 of the Goddard Book Vol. II.
  9. Text in Medieval Latin employed words for things and ideas that did not exist in classical times, making the precise translation the job of a specialist of the period, not just of Latin. For instance, ‘sorer’ can be translated to give a much wider meaning than sister’ of the brother and sister’ relationship.
  10. ‘Dower’ means the portion of an estate (usually 1/3rd) left to a widow by her husband or, less usually, the gifts given to a daughter on her marriage. A ‘dowry’ is that gift a wife gives to her husband on marriage. Chancery court case of Agnes Picotvs. Walter de Goderville c. 1224. Goddard Book Vol.II.
  11. Edited by R.T. Timson, M.A., Ph.D. London H.MS.O. 1973.
  12. Almost certainly Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.
  13. Excerptaê Rotuiis Finium Vol.1p.144, Nottingham Court, 25 June 1226. Walter is required to hand over all the Nottinghasnshire lands inherited by Johanna but left in her will to her sister, Isabella Musard.