The Lords of Holderness



Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, most of the area known as Holderness was in the hands of many freeholders. After the Conquest, these holdings were consolidated into a single Seigniory ( or Lordship) which was ruled by an overlord. The first to be installed was Drogo de Brevere soon after 1066. He was a Flemish knight who had fought for Duke William at the Battle of Hastings. His important status is shown by his marriage to Albina, William the Conqueror’s niece. His Holderness estates included all lands not already held by the Archbishop of York. He is credited with the building of Skipsea castle on the East Yorkshire coast, which he used as an administrative base. Soon after the Domesday Survey in 1086, Drogo disappeared. The Chronicles of Meaux Abbey, written 200 years later, claimed that he poisoned his wife at Skipsea, then made his escape to the Continent.

What is certain is that before William’s death in September 1087, the king re-granted Drogo’s Holderness estate to his brother-in-law Odo, count of Champagne. Odo’s marriage to the king’s sister brought him the lands of Aumale or Albemarle in Normandy. When he died c. 1100, his son Stephen became the first of the family to use the title count of

Aumale. Stephen died c. 1130 and was succeeded by his son, William le Gros. William moved his administrative centre from Skipsea Castle to South Park at Burstwick, a village north of Hedon. He had realised that he needed shipping access from his Holderness lands across the North Sea to Normandy. So a new town, Hedon, was created from adjoining parishes between 1130 and 1140. It was a planned town with a typical grid-iron street layout, and it was to serve as his port.

This explains why Hedon is not recorded in William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book.

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