1066 Info 1 for Norman Origins
In the beginning - Venables before the time of Gilbert

The origins of the Crompton family lie in the expanding culture of the Viking people and their voyages of exploration, trade and settlement to the mouth of the river Seine, where there was a safe coastal haven and communications with Norway. After the death of Charlemagne, these Norman - in France, the name Norman is synonymous with the Northmen or Vikings –  ‘pirates’ became even more bold in attacking the Frankish kingdom known as Neustria, by sailing up the river Seine.

From the early 9th century until the mid 15th century, the course of the river Seine marked a highway to the interior and Paris. It was a boundary between rival dukedoms and kingdom. It was, for 600 years, a frontier land, witnessing frequent changes of allegiances and its associated suffering. Venables, being on the course of the Seine, must have experienced more than its share of uncertainty, changing loyalties, pillage, abductions, poverty and death.

Bernard Oger, in ‘Venables A travers l’Histoire des origins à 1453’ chronicles the arrival and settlement of the department of Eure in High Normandy, and uses the wider context to illustrate the development of the settlement of Venables, the home of Gilbert.

Map showing general position of Venables - 26Kb gif
Above: High Normandy, now the Department of Eure.
The settlements mentioned in the text are marked red. Venables is within the blue circle.

820CE Thirteen long ships entered the Seine estuary, until driven away by the guards of the shore who killed five men.

841CE In May they burnt Rouen and Jumieges.

844CE Rouen was sacked again, along with the Vexin region.

845CE The spring witnesses a Viking armada as a ‘herd of wild animals in the middle of the forest’.

846CE On 14 March, Rouen was burnt again. Hildegaire, bishop of Meaux wrote ‘On the banks of the Seine which were once as beautiful as paradise everything was devastated by sword and by flame.’ Venables must have suffered too.

850CE Sydroc’s Normans wintered in the Lower-Seine from 13 October to 5 June. In March 851 Torquatus and his ‘Bigrois’, the ‘half-wild countrymen, [who] lived off wild fruit and hunting in the woods’, pushed back the invaders who then settled on the island of Jeufosse, between Vernon and Bonnnieres.

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854CE Charles II, the Bald, built Pont-de-l’Arche to hold the invaders but the following year they forced their way back to their base at Jeufosse. In his chronicles, about the dukes of Normandy and of Neustria, Benedict of More wrote:

‘The lords had neither land nor servants
To give them an income
They had to stop farming
And lost their earnings.’

856CE The Normans again wintered in Jeufosse.

857CE From the island of Oissel the invaders devastated the region, going up the Eure and Ilton rivers. Charles II attempts to talk with Sydroc failed.

859CE Sydroc voyage reached Pistis (modern Pîtres) on the river Andelle.

861-868CE At Pistis the king of France decided to complete the twenty-two arches of Pont-de-l’Arches and its two forts blocking the roads along the valleys of the Seine, Eure and Andelle.

863CE A reasonable peace enabled the monks to rebuild their monasteries, abbeys and churches, but the ordinary people only had widows and orphans left.

865CE Fifty ships with seven hundred men besieged Pitres, but Sydroc crossed the Channel to devastate England, where he was killed.

876CE A Northman named Rollon arrived in the Seine with one hundred boats. Being unable to drive away the invaders, the French had to pay taxes to the Normans: ‘twelve deniers for each lord’s property, eight deniers for each free man’s farm, four for each colonist’s farm; the bishops were obliged to take money from the priests, from four deniers to five sous according to their revenue. All churches belonging to the counts and vassals were also obliged to contribute; merchants and city-dwellers were taxed according to their property … [to such an extent, that Himicar grieves] … not only were the poor deprived but also the churches, which were once so rich.’

892CE The Norman besiegers of Paris took fresh supplies from the district around Evreux.

896CE Viking families settled around Evreux and between Louviers and Gaillon in the department of Eure.

911CE Rollon, settled in the Seine valley. He went up the river and besieged Mantes and Paris. Then leaving his boats in Jeufosse he crossed Normandy, took Evreux but failed to take Charters.

In order to hold the ‘pirates’, stop their devastation and bring back peace Rollon, Charles the Simple, King of France and the Bishops of Rouen and Reims met at St-Clair-sur-Epte. In exchange for the dioceses of Rouen, Lisiex and Evreux, bounded by the rivers Dives, Avre, Eure and Bresle the Vikings agreed to stop invading and devastating the rest of the kingdom of France.

‘Despite the pillaging, killing, people being taken in to slavery and the devastation of Neustria during the century, the middle-classes and peasants ‘Christians’ accepted the Norman chief who brought them peace and security.’ At St-Clair-sur-Epte Charles III accepted Rollon’s authority as regards Normandy.

911CE Rollon is baptised in Rouen by Archbishop Francon. Though he married the sterile Gisele, the king of France’s daughter, he kept his pagan wife, Popa whose descendants were to rule Normandy and England.

924CE The new Duke of Normandy added Bayeux, St Lô and the land to the River Orne. Evreux and the plateau of Madrie, including Venables, became Norman.

Within a few decades, Normandy became the richest and most civilized province in France and in the world. The new settlers were as much businessmen as fighting men. Countless villages ending in ‘beuf’ or ‘but’ ‘fleur’, ‘bec’, ‘dale’ and ‘bricq’ are proof of their civilization. At the same time, the occupiers adopted the religion, language and some of the traditions of the vanquished. Rape, murder, theft, destruction of the harvest was punishable by death, whatever the rank of person. Serfdom was abolished. … Peace and prosperity, through diplomacy made Normandy the most densely populated region in the kingdom.

The descendants of Rollon, William the Long Sword (932-942) and Richard the Fearless (942-996), sometimes helped by their English and Norwegian cousins fought against the claims of the last Carolingian kings, the descendants of Charlemagne, and the Capatian dukes. Venables must again have suffered as it lay on the route of the various armies.

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947CE Louis IV invaded the earldom of Evreux. Richard and Louis met at St-Clair-sur-Epte to make peace.

954CE Lothair, son of Louis, came to the throne and took Evreux by siege.

989CE Duke Richard re-took Evreux.

990CE Gaillon, and possibly the lands of Venables, was annexed to the earldom of Evreux.

1035CE Roger of Blois, Bishop of Beauvais, is recorded as giving lands in the area of Venables to his chapter.

Between c.1020 and 1050 the 'princely' rule of Normandy was extremely weak. Expansionism prevailed and land was sought outside Normandy. With the reestablishment of authority and the establishment of an aristocratic clique loyal to the duke, energies turned outwards toward territorial expansion against the enemies on the southern and eastern boundaries. 'The seigneurs who emerged all over France in the eleventh century were normally descendants of tenth century nobles and [were] not in any sense a new aristocracy. ... In that late eleventh century ... [there were] restricted ideas of family that concentrated inheritance. Increasingly the right of inheritance came to focus on the eldest son. This narrowing of inheritance possibilities effectively dispossessed some family members'. These landholder were the bulwark of the economic system, the key to a symbiotic political development and the maintenance of this equilibrium through continued possession by inheritance. Increasingly the rights of inheritance came to focus on the eldest child. (Keats-Rohan, 1999 p.63)

It was from the line of the Earls of Blois that Gilbert was descended. As the youngest son he was given the fiefdom of Venables on the eastern frontiers, at sometime before 1050CE, and took the name Gilbert de Venables - or, in Latin, Gislebertus Venator, Gilbert the Hunter. But, with a modest fiefdom it was possible that his future prospects lay across the Channel.


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This page was created by Richard Crompton
and maintained by Chris Glass
  Version A6
Updated 13 March 2020