The castle would seem to have been in existence by 1052 if it is the Robert's castle mentioned in later chronicles.  According to a chronicle re-written soon after 1118:

When Archbishop Robert and the Frenchmen learned that [the king and Earl Godwin were making peace] they seized their horses and some turned west [from London] to Pentecost's castle, some north to Robert's castle and Archbishop Robert and Bishop Ulf and their companions turned out the East Gate and killed and otherwise injured many juveniles and made their way direct to The Naze (Eadulf's Ness)...

The earlier, contemporary versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle do not mention the flight to any castles.  However, Florence of Worcester (d.1118), who was probably born in the 1040s and wrote in the early 1100s using a probably lost Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as his source wrote:

All the Normans who had instituted unjust laws and given unjust judgements and in many things had influenced the king to the disadvantage of the English were expelled.  However a few of them, namely Robert the Deacon, and his son-in-law Richard Fitz Scrope, Alfred, the king's master of horse, Aufrid, surnamed Ceokesfot, and some others whom the king loved more than the rest... were allowed to remain...  Truly Osbern, surnamed Pentecost, and his companion Hugh, surrendered their castles, and had licence from Earl Leofric to pass through his earldom to Scotland, where they were received by King Macbeth of the Scots.

His words were later copied verbatim by Roger Hoveden.  There seems little doubt from the 2 more original entries that at least 3 castles existed in England in 1052, Robert's castle, Pentecost's castle and Hugh's castle.  Most likely these were Clavering, Ewias Harold and Howton.

Robert the Deacon is synonymous with Robert Fitz Wymarch, the friend and relative of both King Edward the Confessor (d.1066) and William I (d.1087).  His name, Deacon, coming from his holding lay office in Bromfield church, Shropshire.  Robert is first noticed witnessing a document for King Edward (d.1066) in 1044.  This suggests that he may have come over with the king from Normandy in 1042 when Edward assumed the kingship.  He was next found in 1052, apparently fleeing London, before being forgiven and allowed to remain in the country and it would seem keep his castle of Clavering.  He obviously remained close to the king and was pictured at his deathbed on the Bayeau Tapestry.  He then fought at Hastings before dying before 1075.  As early as 1052, his son in law was lord of Richards Castle in the Herefordshire Marches of Wales.  He also held Thruxton in the Marches where there is an early motte and bailey castle.

Robert's heirs continued to prosper in England with his son, Swein Essex, being lord of Rayleigh in Domesday.  His grandson, Henry Essex, was a powerful baron during the Anarchy and a firm supporter of King Henry II.  However, he fled from the battle of Rhuddlan in 1157 and in 1163 was defeated by a cousin in judicial combat over his alleged cowardice.  As a result he withdrew from public life and became a monk, being disinherited of his lands.  However, Clavering passed to his brother in law, Roger Fitz Richard (d.1178), the lord of Warkworth castle in Northumberland, possibly as the dower of Henry's sister in law, the widow of Henry's elder brother, Robert Essex.  Clavering may have briefly passed to their daughter, Alice Fitz Roger, who married John Fitz Richard (d.1190), the son of Richard Fitz Eustace of Halton castle.  John seems to have adopted the surname of Clavering, but his son, Roger (d.1211), took the name Lacy when he inherited the Lacy honours of Clitheroe and Pontefract in 1193.  However, the manor itself stayed with the male descendants of Roger and Alice and in 1310 was held from the honour of Rayleigh by their second great grandson, Robert Fitz Roger of Warkworth, on his death.  A new manor house called The Bury built in the early fourteenth century probably marks the abandonment of the site.

Set between St Mary's church and the River Stort, Clavering castle now consists of a rectangular platform about 280' east to west  by 180' north to south and surrounded by a deep moat on all sides about 20' deep by 75' across.  The moat was obviously fed from the river that curves around the castle site to the north.  There are remains to the north-east of a possible mill.  The interior of the castle is irregular which suggests the collapsed remains of former masonry structures.


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry