Osbert fitz Hervey (died 1205/6)

Osbert fitz Hervey of Dagworth, Suffolk was the father of Richard de Dagworth
(d.1234) and is the first known de Dagworth ancestor according to Douglas
Richardson's
Magna Carta Ancestry. This states that Osbert married  Margaret,
daughter of William Fitz Roscelin of Linstead, Suffolk and died 1205.

We know from Ralph of Coggeshall's story of the spirit
Malekin in the Chronicon
Anglicanum that "Osberni de Bradewelle" had a house in Dagworth during the reign
of Richard the Lionheart (1189-99). "Osbern" is very similar to "Osbert", and we
also know that Osbert fitz Hervey gifted land in Bradwell to the Templars some time
before 1190,[
1] so he may also have been known as Osbert de Bradwell.

A Deed in the National Archives at Kew records that Osbert fitz Hervey was granted
Dagworth by Geoffrey, Count of the Perche (d. April 1202) in return for a twentieth
part of a knight's fee.[
2] It appears that Dagworth was part of the extensive dowry
of holdings in Suffolk, Essex and Kent that Geoffrey received when he married
Richard the Lionheart's niece Matilda of Saxony (1171-1210) in July 1189; these
also included Wetherden (2.5 miles away).[
3] Matilda's son Thomas is reported to
have held Haughley (1.5 miles away) at the time of his death at the Battle of Lincoln
in 1217.[
4] The Inquisition Post Mortem of Osbert's grandson Osbert de Dagworth
in 1260 also confirms that Osbert fitz Hervey held Dagworth: "In the time of King
John, Osbert son of Hervey de Daggord held the manor and died vested as of fee".
[
5]

Osbert fitz Hervey of Dagworth appears to have been the same man who was a
King's justice from 1192-1206, during the reigns of Richard I and John, and there is
a suggestion that he was descended from the Hervey mentioned in Domesday as a
tenant of Hugh de Montfort in Haughley. It is also suggested that he was the
brother of William fitz Hervey, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk at the end of Henry II's
reign, and we know from the Chronicle of Jocelin of Breckland that he served as an
under-sheriff before he became a justice.[
6] In 1182 Osbert was summoned as a
Serjeant-at-law by Henry II.[
7]

Osbert is noted as being from a “middling knightly family” and “of undistinguished
origin”;  “He began his career as an obscure East Anglian knight, but at his death
he had an income of over £240. This was more than the £202 average annual
income of a baron at the beginning of the thirteenth century.” It has therefore been
suggested that Osbert was the justiciar in the
Vision of Thurkill (possibly also
written by Ralph of Coggeshall), which relates events on 27 October 1206 in the
village of Stisted, less than 2 miles from Bradwell where Osbert held land:

    The "Vision of Thurkill" ... is a description of the punishments in hell awaiting
    sinners from all levels of society ... Among the sinners is a royal justice, who
    can be identified as Osbert fitz Hervey ... described ... as "one most expert in
    worldly law," and "famous throughout England among high and low for his
    over flowing eloquence and experience in the law." Most of what was written
    about the judge is less complimentary, however. He was accused of greedily
    gaining wealth by taking gifts from litigants on both sides of lawsuits; and
    worse still, he died without making a will in which he could dispose of his ill-
    gotten gain with pious gifts. As punishment, the demons in hell invented new
    tortures, forcing him to gulp down burning coins, then running an iron wheel
    up and down his back, forcing him to vomit up the coins.[8]

But Osbert was not necessarily the corrupt villain described in the Vision:

    If we are prepared, in the light of this weak evidence, to identify Osbert fitz
    Hervey with the 'iusticiarius' of the vision, then we must ask who might have
    had an interest in the condemnation of this judge in the Other World. I do
    not wish to reduce this problem to the question of redactor or visionary, but
    would like also to remember the many listeners to Thurkill's account, for
    whom Osbert fitz Hervey will not have been purely the object of sympathy.
    They could lead the visionary in a particular direction by loaded questions. I
    am thinking for example of Osbert de Longchamps, the lord of Stisted. His
    brother Henry was Abbot of Croyland; the names Osbert fitz Hervey, Osbert
    de Longchamps and Henry de Longchamps all appear in the acts of a case
    involving the abbey which lasted fourteen years. Abbot Henry incidentally
    had contacts with men of letters such as Peter of Blois and Henry of
    Avranches and might have conceived the idea of producing a written version
    of the vision.[9]

Whatever the truth, we know for certain that Osbert was the first of the de
Dagworth line to hold land at Dagworth, and the story of the following two centuries
begins with him.
[1] From Malcolm Barber, A.K. Bate, “The Templars: selected sources” (2002) p184-5: “Inquest of the
Templar lands in England (Essex) (1185)  This survey was made on the orders of Geoffrey Fitz Stephen,
Master in England (1185-95). It recorded the extent and value of the Templar estates throughout the country
by collecting information through local juries. It probably took about five years before the last returns were
received. ... Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth Century: The Inquest of 1185, ed. B.A. Lees.
British Academy Records of the Social and Economic History of England and Wales, 9 (London, 1935), pp1-
10.” ... p190: “These are the appurtenances of Witham. In
Bradwell, the gift of Osbert Fitz Hervey, Godric
the beadle 4 acres for 3s.”
[2] National Archives piece reference E 210/1532 - Scope and content: "Geoffrey, Count of Perch ( de
Pertico ) to Osbert son of Hugh : Land at Leiland, Dragworth, etc. : ?"
Kathleen Thompson “Power and Border Leadership in Medieval France: The County of the Perche, 1000-
1226”, Boydell & Brewer, 2002,  p176: “Reginald witnessed an act in which land in Suffolk was conceded by
Count Geoffrey in return for a twentieth part of a knight’s fee to Osbert fitzHervey, the king’s justice. Osbert,
who served on the king’s bench and in the exchequer under King Richard and King John, had begun his
career under Henry of Essex and was for a time an under-sheriff. "
[3] Kathleen Thompson, "Matilda, countess of the Perche (1171-1210): the expression of authority in name,
style and seal" Tabularia « Études », n° 3, 2003, p. 69-88, 18 juillet 2003
http://www.unicaen.fr/mrsh/craham/revue/tabularia/dossier3/textes/01thompson.pdf
[4] Vincent B. Redstone, “Notes on Suffolk Castles – Haughley Castle and its Park” in Proceedings of the
Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History Volume XI, 1903, p302-305
[5] 'Inquisitions Post Mortem, Henry III, File 26', Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume 1: Henry III
(1904), pp. 143-149. URL:
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=108022 Date accessed: 09
April 2012 :521.Osbert de Daggord. Writ, ... 46 ... (a fragment). Inq. (undated.); National Archives C132/24/1
IPM Osbert De Dagworth alias De Dagewurth. Essex: Doddinghurst, 1260 and also C132/26/16 IPM Osbert de
Daggord: [Suffolk]: Bradwell, Dagworth, 1261/2
[6] Ralph V. Turner  “The Judges of King John: Their Background and Training” Speculum , Vol. 51, No. 3
(Jul., 1976), pp. 447-461; p448
[7] Edward H. Warren “Serjeants-at-Law; The Order of the Coif” Virginia Law Review , Vol. 28, No. 7 (May,
1942), p. 919 footnote 18
[8] Ralph V. Turner “The Reputation of Royal Judges under the Angevin Kings” Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies , Vol. 11, No. 4 (Winter, 1979), pp. 301-316
Notes
[9] Paul Gerhard Schmidt “The Vision of Thurkill” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes , Vol. 41,
(1978), pp. 50-64