Autumn 2013 newsletter

Autumn 2013 newsletter

This newsletter covers personal news, new information on the website about the Newry Sinclair family and recent genealogical research, so I must apologise if some of it doesn't interest you.

There has been a long gap since my last newsletter (Winter 2012) because in Spring 2012 I gave a talk about the Saint Clair family from Normandy and the Lanvalei family from Brittany in the parish church at Walkern in Hertfordshire. Not content with providing my first ever talk about these families, I made the mistake of offering to write it up for publication! The consequence of that was a year of research, which has been great fun, but very time-consuming. Finally, the book has gone to press and should be available in a few weeks.


Medieval Walkern and
Magna Carta

For anyone passing through Walkern it is just another pretty Hertfordshire village. Yet, like so many villages in England, it has a history, and a very rich history, too.

Soon after the Norman Conquest, Walchra, as it was known then, became the property of Eudo the dapifer, steward to three Norman kings. After his death in 1120, it was granted to Hamo de Saint Clair, constable of Colchester castle and later sheriff of Essex, and after the heroic death of his son it passed to William de Lanvalei, a Breton and supporter of Henry II.

When the barons of England took up arms against King John in November 1214, William’s grandson, another William, was amongst them. He was stripped of his property by the king and excommunicated by the Pope. In June 1215, at Runnymede, he was chosen as one of the 25 sureties or guarantors of Magna Carta. It is this William who is commemorated by the remarkable marble effigy still to be seen in Walkern’s parish church, almost 800 years later.

Walkern’s medieval lords of the manor were able administrators from lesser baronial families, so have largely remained invisible. It is only now that their story, and the story of Walkern, is beginning to be told.

Paperback published by the Walkern History Society
144pp, A5, ISBN 978-0-9576286-0-1: £10.00

Digital book published by Frontline States
5MB, PDF, ISBN 978-1-873639-06-1: £5.00

Both formats can be ordered from Frontline States.


800th Anniversary of Magna Carta
in 2015

What has come out of writing the Walkern book has been quite a departure. In June 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta will be celebrated. As it happens, a descendant of Hamo de Saint Clair was one of the most active barons who forced King John to seal the charter at Runnymede. His name was William de Lanvalei, and it is his effigy in the church at Walkern. Because of the book, I was able to set in motion the twinning of Walkern with Lanvallay in Brittany. But that hasn’t been all… I contacted all the towns and villages where the Twenty Five barons who acted as sureties of Magna Carta had their chief manors, suggesting they jointly celebrate 800 year's history of their communities as part of the Magna Carta celebrations. The result is the Magna Carta Barons Association, which was formed on 27 September in Leicester! Take a look at for information about the towns and villages and their barons.


Poppy Day
and Sir Herbert Brown

In August 2014 there will be another anniversary, 100 years since the start of the First World War. Although this newsletter is about the Sinclairs, and particularly the Irish Sinclairs from Newry, I think it is important to mention that the Brown family have a very good reason to be proud of Herbert Brown, my grandfather’s first cousin.

He took over as head of Charles Brown & Co. Ltd, flour millers in Croydon and Bermondsey, which was sold to Spillers in 1953. Herbert had an illustrious and successful career. He was Chairman of the Croydon General Hospital (May Day Hospital) between 1929-1937 and 1939-1943, and President between 1943-1948. During those years he donated more than £20,000 to the hospital. He was a Governor of St. Thomas's Hospital and of the Star and Garter Hospital, Richmond, as well as President of the National Association of British and Irish Millers (1922-1923). In 1920 he was awarded a knighthood for action in Mesopotamia and in 1921 received the Cross of Officer of the Order of Leopold of Belgium. He was Hon. Chairman of the Officers' Association and Knights of St. John.

However, it was in his role as the Hon. Appeal Secretary of the British Legion that he should be remembered today. In 1921, he travelled to Paris and arranged to manufacture large quantities of poppies for the first Poppy Day on 11 November. Millions were sold at 3d. each on the day, and by breakfast time single petals were selling for £5 each in Smithfield Market.

Today, of course, the red poppies are an annual institution, which has a lot to do with Herbert's initiative... something that descendants of the Brown family can be proud of.



Peter Sinclair, 41 High Street, Barkway, Hertfordshire, SG8 8EA

This is an occasional newsletter published by the Sinclair genealogy website. It provides information about new research and recent historical discoveries in Normandy, England, Scotland and Ireland.