Winter 2015 Newsletter

Winter 2015 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 another long gap since my last newsletter (Autumn 2013), but for a good reason, as you'll see below! My short book about the de Saint Clair and de Lanvalei families was published by the Walkern History Society towards the end of 2013, and since then my Sinclair research has continued.

Dolores and I visited Lanvallay near Dinan last summer, and enjoyed a weekend immersing ourselves in medieval life and watching jousting. The French do it with some style, but of course the "bad" lords were always from England! Still, the village of Lanvallay is in the process of twinning with Walkern, which is a great outcome of writing the book. If you would like to buy a copy of Medieval Walkern and Magna Carta, click here.

Another fascinating piece of research has been about a superb church in Normandy. It is called 'L'Eglise Saint-Pierre de Thaon' and sits in the middle of a small but beautiful valley, seemingly untouched by German, American and British tanks and aerial bombardments during the last war. It is an outstanding church that is under continuing archaeological research by specialists at the University of Caen. When they dug into the floor of the nave, they uncovered an astonishing number of burials - over 400 adults and children were buried in the church over the centuries. These were no mass burials, each was found space. 

So why is this church interesting for Sinclair research? Well, William de Saint Clair, the uncle of Hubert de Saint Clair who held the barony of Walkern, was the owner of land at Thaon about the time the church was built. It is too early to say if the church is sitting on his land, but he gifted his holding at Thaon to the abbey of Savigny, after which the abbey was always a patron of the church. It is likely to have been Hamon le Dent, the overlord of Thaon, who actually founded the church, and William de Saint Clair who held the land on which it was built. Nevertheless, his association with it must have been very close. About the same time, William founded the priory at Villiers(-Fossard), not far from Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, parts of which still survive. Dolores and I attended the November meeting of the 'Association des Amis de la Vieille Eglise de Thaon' and will continue to research William's other Norman holdings.


800th Anniversary of Magna Carta

The real work that has kept me from focusing on research has been the preparation of events to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Sinclair namesakes and family in other English-speaking countries are well aware of the role of Magna Carta in history, but sadly, in England, although people know it had something to do with our freedoms, few know much more than that. This will change during 2015!

Already, it has been discussed on primetime radio during the first week of January (Radio 4 at 9am over four days) and the British Library will be opening a special exhibition in March when four original copies will be displayed together.

For my part, I have been helping the villages and towns where the Rebel Barons came from to claim a place in what otherwise will be top-down celebrations for the few. The result has already been a great success!

Twenty-two villages and towns have received a facsimile copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, specially printed on parchment. These will be displayed in local exhibitions for residents and visitors in May and June, accompanied by two banners I am working on - one about Magna Carta itself, and one about each of the barons. The £12,500 for this came from the national Anniversary Committee, but we weren't lucky with a Heritage Lottery Fund application. Still, the villages and towns themselves have already received over £100,000 for their celebrations, which is no mean thing.

There are lots of other things the Magna Carta Barons Association, of which I am the chairman, is doing. One is an archery contest hosted by Wraysbury, opposite Runnymede, at Windsor Home Park on Saturday 6 June. This was the idea of my esteemed cousin, Graham Sinclair, who valiantly struggled against rising water when the Thames flooded last year. Wraysbury was one of the manors held by Richard de Montfichet, one of the 25 Rebel Barons chosen to guarantee John didn't renege on his promises.

Another is growing an oak sapling, grafted from a King John Oak that has survived 800 years. If we are successful, the villages will be able to plant them in 2016, a continuous reminder of their association with Magna Carta for another 800 years.

The Lord Mayor of London will be receiving the villages and towns of the Rebel Barons at a special reception on 12 May, three days after John agreed a charter for London on 9 May 1215, and five days before London went over to the Rebel Barons on 17 May. This will be the first time in 800 years that representatives of these 22 villages and towns will be meeting together in London!


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.