Nicholas Fitzherbert describes the origins of his family in 1125
IN THIS family story we are talking about eight hundred and sixty nine years of history covering twenty eight generations; I divide the tale into five distinct parts: • 1125-1305 from the founding of' the family to the great rebuilding by Sir Henry Filzherberl in 1305, with Edward l's permission.
• John Fitzherbert, a great agriculturalist, who farmed the family property for the fifty eight years between 1473 and 1531. He was also the author of -a farming bible.
• The Generations of Crisis which are from the birth of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, a High Court Judge, In 1470, to the death of his great grandson, Sir John Fitzherbert,• a colonel in the Royalist Army, in 1649. These years include those of the great religious turmoil.
• My family's connection with the famous Boscobel Oak in which Charles II hid when making good his escape after being defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
• The story of the Prince of Wales, later George IV, and Mrs Fitzherbert.
William Fitzherbert was granted the lordship of The Manor of Norbury, a small village standing high up above the River Dove, at the start of Dovedale in Derbyshire, in 1125, by Henry de Ferrers, whose father was one of William The Conqueror's most powerful barons.
Remarkably, the deed exists today as does a seal with the Fitzherbert 'arms' of a private gentleman; it is attached to a deed dated 1180.
A word about the name. My ancestor came over with William The Conqueror in 1066 when it was a Norman custom for a son to add Fils, "son of", to his father's name. Thus Fils Herbert, "Son of Herbert", became Fitzherbert.
From 1125 The Manor of Norbury passed in unbroken male descent from father to son, brother to brother, or uncle to nephew, only once passing between cousins, until sold in 1881. However, the Lordship of The Manor was specifically retained. Happily, it was bought back by a distant Fitzherhert connection in 1964 and has been beautifully restored including some very interesting fifteenth century heraldic glass.
What did The Manor House consist of? What ever was there was demolished and rebuilt in 1305 when Sir Henry Fitzherbert, the sixth Lord of the Manor, obtained permission from Edward 1, through a grant dated May 8, 1305, which still exists, to obstruct and close the road which passed through the courtyard of his Manor House.
The so called Great Hall, in fact not very big, which was built at this date, stands today unaltered except for a different roof; one of only three such buildings in the country. The present house was built at the time of the Restoration in about 1660. The Church, a few yards away, was built and added to by the family over several centuries so the Manor House, Great Hall and Parish Church are all clustered closely together; typical of the age. The Church includes some marvellous stone and alabaster tombs, the earliest one being of Sir William Fitzherbert, who was Sheriff o f Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in 1272, 1273 and 1274.
To complete this first section I should perhaps mention Nicholas who died in 1473. He was Knight of the Shire for Derbyshire from 1446 to 1452 and Sheriff of the United Counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in 1448 and 1466. He is best remembered for re-building the nave of the Church and the South East Chapel. Norbury Church is very unusual in that the chancel is the same length as the nave; it is a lovely village parish church.
It is right to mention here that William, younger grandson of William the Founder, started a junior branch which established themselves not many miles away at Somersal Herbert. The house, partly 16th century, where I spent the war years when my father was back in the Army, was only sold in 1955 after seven hundred consecutive years of FitzHerbert ownership.
This branch of the family conformed to the Elizabethan religious settlement and has provided many ministers of the Church of England. Not many years ago the Archdeacon of Derby was a Henry FitzlIerbert, with a big H, which distinguishes this branch of the family.
John Fitzherbert, 13th Lord of the Manor was born in 1450 and died in 1531 living through the Wars of the Roses which ended when Richard III was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The important thing is that his life spanned a period of revolutionary change in agriculture, mainly under Henry VII. He farmed at Norbury an unusually long time, fifty eight years, and so was well qualified to comment on the changing scene.
Much land was enclosed at this time and Henry Vii, by Letters Privy Seal, dated October 4, 1506, granted licence for him to enclose three hundred acres in Norbury, Rossington, Snelston and Cubic). Co Derby for a Park and Warren. This is just a glimpse of one man's experience in this time of change. He wrote the well known !Joke of Husbandry which was published in 1523, and The Book of Surveying. He also put forty six coats of heraldic glass in the windows of The Manor House of which seven have survived. The Boke of Husbandry, of which this is a 19th century edition, was considered to be an agricultural bible.