Urse d'Abetot (DNB00)

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URSE d'Abetot (fl. 1086), sheriff of Worcestershire, derived his name from St. Jean d'Abbetot, near Tancarville (Seine Inférieure). He appears in ‘Domesday’ as a tenant-in-chief in the counties of Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, and Warwick, being also styled in it ‘Urso de Wirecestre’ (f. 169 b) from his office as sheriff of Worcestershire. William of Malmesbury, describing him as ‘Vicecomes Wigorniæ a rege constitutus,’ tells the story of his encroaching on the cemetery of Worcester Abbey to make his castle ditch, and of his stern rebuke for it by Archbishop Ealdred: ‘Hightest thou Urse, have thou God's curse’ (Gesta Pontificum). He figures largely in Worcestershire as a despoiler of the church, especially of the monks of Worcester (Heming, Cartulary, pp. 257, 261, 267, 269), in one case seizing on a manor as an endowment for his daughter (ib. p. 251). Evesham and Pershore also suffered at his hands. On the other hand, he was traditionally the founder of Malvern Priory (Monasticon, iii. 477). On the revolt of the Earl of Hereford in 1074 he joined the bishop of Worcester and the abbot of Evesham in defeating the earl's forces (Flor. Wig.) Freeman states that he was sheriff of Gloucestershire as well as Worcestershire (Norm. Conq. iv. 173), but this seems to be an error.

Throughout the reign of William Rufus, Urse is found as a witness to royal charters, and the charter of Henry I, for holding the local courts, issued between 1108 and 1112, is addressed to him as sheriff of Worcestershire (Select Charters, p. 99).

He was succeeded in this reign by his son Roger, who offended Henry I by slaying one of his officers (Will. Malm. ut supra). There can be little doubt (though the fact has escaped notice) that this was the Roger ‘Vicecomes de Wirecestria’ to whom is addressed a writ of Henry I (Hale, p. 30 a), and the Roger de Worcester whose lands were granted by Henry I to Walter de Beauchamp in a charter entered in the Warwick cartulary. With him Urse's male issue seems to have become extinct, though members of the house of Abetot continued in the county (Liber Rubeus, p. 266), giving name to Croome d'Abitot and Redmarley d'Abitot. The ‘Evesham Chronicle’ speaks of them as ‘Ursini.’ Freeman speaks, at the battle of Lincoln, of ‘Richard, the son of Urse, a descendant, it would seem, of the old enemy, Urse of Abetott, whose exploits that day might be taken as some atonement for the crimes of his kindred’ (Norm. Conq. v. 300). But there seems to have been no connection between the two.

Walter de Beauchamp, who married Urse's daughter Emmeline (Dugdale), obtained from Henry I a confirmation of the lands given him by Adelisa, Urse's widow, together with the shrievalty of Worcestershire and the office of constable. These grants, which are recorded in the Warwick cartulary, founded the greatness of the Beauchamps, whose descendants, it is said, preserved the memory of Urse in the well-known ‘bear’ cognisance of the earls of Warwick.

It is well ascertained that Robert the Despencer, another tenant-in-chief, was brother to Urse (Heming, Cartulary, p. 253; Geoffrey de Mandeville, p. 314), and his office of despencer was obtained by Walter de Beauchamp. It is usually stated that the Marmions were the heirs of Robert, but it is certain that much of his property passed to the Beauchamps (Ancient Charters, p. 2; Geoffrey de Mandeville, pp. 313–15; Feudal England, pp. 170–76, 179–80, 194–5).

[Domesday Book; Will. Malmesbury's Evesham Chronicle and Red Book of the Exchequer (Rolls Ser.); Heming's Cartulary, ed. Hearne; Dugdale's Baronage; Hale's Cartulary of St. Mary's, Worcester (Camd. Soc.); Flor. Wig. (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Monasticon Anglicanum; Stubbs's Select Charters; Round's Ancient Charters (Pipe Roll Soc.), Geoffrey de Mandeville, and Feudal England; Warwick Cartulary (Addit. MS. 28024).]

J. H. R.