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In 1153, Rodberto filio Hard(ingi) (Robert fitz Harding) was supposedly granted, by Henry II, a Royal licence to crenellate Berkelai (Berkeley)
309. Fitz Harding, Robert (Jan.-May 1153, at Bristol)
Duke Henry grants the manor of Bitten (Glos.) and £100 of land in Berkeley (Glos.) with permission to build a castle there
H(enricus) dux Norm(annorum) et comes And(egavorum) omnibus archiepiscopis episcopis abbatibus consulibus baronibus et amicis fidelibus Francis et Anglicis salutem. Sciatis me dedisse Rodberto filio Hard(ingi) et hereibus suis manerium de Betthone cum omnibus appendiciis suis, et insuper centum libratas terre in manerio de Berkelai ita libere et quiete in bosco et plano et pascuis et pratis et aquis et viis et terris arabilibus cum omnibus libertatibus et consuetudinibus cum tol et them et soch et sache et belle et burhgiete (i.e. bell and burhgate) et infanckenethef et omnibus quietanciis que ibi fuerunt in temore Henrici regis avi mei in feudo et hereditate, illi et heredibus suis ad tenendum de me et de heredibus meis per servitium duorum mutatorum accipitrum singulis annis mihi et meis heredibus reddendorum. Et pepige ei firmare ibi castellum secundum voluntatem ipsius Rodb(er)ti. Et propter hec supradicta dona Rodbertus filius Hardingi devenit meus home, et ego per fidem meam affidavi ei pactiones supradictus tenere illi atque heredibus suis. Et hoc idem affidavit Raginaldus comes Cornubie, et Rodbertus de Dunstanvilla, et Ricardus de Humez constabularius, et Maneser Biseth dapifer, et Guarinus filius Geroldi camerarius, et Willelmus filius Hamonis, et Philippus de Columbers, qui hujus pactionis testes existunt. Et preter istos testes sunt inde abbas Sancti Augustini de Bristou, et frater Adam canonicus ejus, et Henricus filius Rodberti, et Willelmus Cumin, et Jordanus frater Rodberti, et Jordanus et David nepotes ejus, et Ric(ardus) de Hanum (sic). Apud Bristou.
MS.: Berkeley Castle Muniments. Pretended original, written in the same hand as 310 and 999 (q.v.), with tag and fold but no seal. The last witness should presumably be Ricardus de Haia.
Printed: I. H. Jeayes, Descriptive Catalogue of the Charters and muniments in the possession of the Rt. Hon. Lord Fitzhardinge at Berkeley Castle (Bristol 1892), no. 1 ; Trans, of the Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. i. (1876), 134.
(Cronne and Davis)

Henry, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. To all archbishops, bishops, abbots, and faithful friends in France and England Greetings. Know that I have given Robert the son of Hardingi and their heirs the manor of Bitton with all appurtenances, and in addition a hundred pounds worth of land in the manor of Berkeley, as freely and with immunity, of woodlands and open country and pastures and meadows and waters and roads and arable land, with all the liberties and customs of tol and team and of soc and sac and bell-tower and burhgate and of infangthief and all quittances which there had been in the time of King Henry my grandfather in fee and inheritance; they and their heirs to hold from me and my heirs, by the service of a twice mewed (moulted) hawk surrendered to me and my heirs each year.
And I made it to strengthen the castle there according to Robert's wishes.
And because of this, the above grants Robert son of Hardingi became my retainer, and I swore to him by my faith to uphold the aforementioned agreements to him and also his heirs. And swore the same to Reginald Earl of Cornwall, and Robert of Dunstanvilla, and Richard of Humez constable and Maneser Biseth steward, and Guarino son Gerold, chamberlain, and William, son of Hamon, and Philip de Columbers, who are witnesses to this agreement. And from whence they were witnesses of these in addition to the abbot of St. Augustine of Bristol, his canon, and a brother, Adam, and Henry, son of Robert, and William Cumin, and brother, Robert Jordan, and Jordan, and David, his grandchildren, and Richard of the Hanum. In Bristol. (Translation by Philip Davis - please do feel free to correct this translation)

Granted at Bristol.

Although this document has been considered by some as a licence to crenellate it is rejected as a licence.


The Berkeley Castle MS is a pretended original with no seal; a copy rather than a forgery. The last witness should presumably be Richardus de Haia.

Since this does not contain either the term licence or crenellate can not meaningfully be called a licence to crenellate. Also it is not granted by a King, although it could be reasonably argued Henry had regal power at this time. What it does appear to be is a grant of land (possibly a repayment of a debt) with a mention that Robert intended to build at the castle. Although it is not a licence to crenellate it does, in fat, have a similar purpose in being a royal 'blessing' of a building project. Robert's status, as an Englishman and merchant, meant he would have valued this blessing in what seems to be his plan to establish himself amongst the Anglo-Norman nobility.

Original source is;

(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)

Significant later sources are;

Robert fitz Harding (d. 1171)
Robert fitz Harding (d. 1171), burgess and merchant, was the grandson, through his father, Harding, of the Saxon thegn Eadnoth the Staller, who died near Bristol in 1068 leading resistance against an invasion by Harold Godwineson's sons... Local tradition aptly described him as a Bristol burgess and merchant. His great stone house stood on High Street near Frome Bridge. He engaged in the Bristol land market and was landlord of properties in at least four other urban locations... social and tenurial enhancement came from patronage Robert received from Henry FitzEmpress both before and after Henry became king, almost certainly as a reward for Robert's financial backing during the war against King Stephen (1135–54). (Patterson)

Biographical source include;

More information about licences to crenellate can be found here.

Please do inform Gatehouse if you see any errors, can add information or can otherwise help to improve this resource. Please contact Gatehouse.

Record created by Philip Davis. This record last updated on Sunday, October 4, 2015.