Fitzharding, Robert (DNB00)

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FITZHARDING, ROBERT (d. 1170), founder of the second house of Berkeley, appears to have been the second son of Harding, son of Eadnoth [q. v.], the staller (Gesta Regum, i. 429; Ellis, Landholders of Gloucestershire, p. 59; Eyton, Somerset Domesday, i. 58; Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 760). Local antiquaries have endeavoured to make out that he was the grandson of a Danish king or sea-rover (Seyer, i. 315; Bristol, Past and Present, i. 56), a futile imagination which has been traced to John Trevisa (Maclean), and is probably older than his date. Robert's eldest brother, Nicolas, inherited his father's fief, Meriet in Somerset (Ellis). Robert was provost or reeve of Bristol, and was possessed of great wealth; he upheld the cause of Robert, earl of Gloucester, who fought for the empress, and purchased several estates from the earl, among them the manor of Billeswick on the right bank of the Frome, which included the present College Green of Bristol, and the manor of Bedminster-with-Redcliff. He had other lands, chiefly in Gloucestershire, and held of Humphrey de Bohun in Wiltshire, and William, earl of Warwick, in Warwickshire (Liber Niger, pp. 109, 206). Before Henry II came to the throne he is said to have been assisted by Robert, probably by loans of money; when he became king he granted him the lordship of Berkeley Hernesse, and Robert is held to have been the first of the second or present line of the lords of Berkeley [Nicolas; see Berkeley, Family of]. He granted a charter to the tenants of his fee near the 'bridge of Bristou.' By his wife Eva he had Maurice, who succeeded him, and four other sons and three daughters. On his estate in Billeswick he built in 1142 the priory or abbey of St. Augustine's for black canons, the present cathedral, and is said to have assumed the monastic habit before his death, which occurred on 5 Feb. 1170 (Ellis). He also founded a school in a building, after-wards called Chequer Hall, in Wine Street, Bristol, for the instruction of Jews and other strangers in the Christian faith. His wife Eva was the founder of a nunnery on St. Michael's Hill, Bristol. Both Robert and, Eva were buried in St. Augustine's Church.

[Smyth's Lives of the Berkeleys, i. 19-62, ed. Maclean; Ellis's Landholders of Gloucestershire named in Domesday, pp. 59,111, from Bristol and Glouc. Archæol. Soc.'s Trans, iv.; Eyton's Domesday Studies, Somerset, i. 59, 70, 101; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. i. 20; Freeman's Norman Conquest, iv. 757-60; Liber Niger de Scaccario, pp. 95, 109, 171, 206 (Hearne); Will. Malm. Gesta Regum, i. 429 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Robert of Gloucester, p. 479 (Hearne); Ricart's Kalendar, p. 20 (Camden Soc.); Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 365; Baronage, i. 350; Tanner's Notitia, p. 480; English Gilds, p. 288 (Early Eng. Text Soc,); Seyer's Hist. of Bristol, i. 313; Nicholls and Taylor's Bristol, Past and Present, i. 56-8, 91, ii. 46, 125; Britton's Bristol Cathedral, pp. 3-7, 57.]

W. H.