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WURTS MAGNA CHARTA provided a brief accounting of the feudal headquarters of some of the Magna Charta Barons. Some of the castles have been badly damaged. Some have disappeared entirely. Often we can learn of them through Medieval and Renaissance accounts, and some of them require the discerning eye of the archeologist. Others await the evidence brought out with a shovel and pick, by the trained archeological historian.
A portion of the information concerning Surety Baron ROBERT de ROOS is as follows:
The Barons de Roos owned Helmsley or Hamlake Castle. Baedeker remarks only that it is an interesting Castle, but we can give some description of it. Hamlake has a rectangular bailey, a barbican, and an outwork at the East end of the bailey. Its singular defense was a double line of ditches, both of which were fed by the River Rye. The curtain wall was built about 1170, and the keep about 1190. The East gateway and barbican are ascribed to the 13th Century. The Castle, except for the keep, was destroyed in 1649. The other half remains, one hundred feet above the bailey. The keep is an excellent example of traditional design, combining the old square style with coming roundness in towers. The outside of the tower is rounded to baffle sappers, and the portion inside the curtain is square, as a convenience for the occupants.
ROBERT de ROOS of Fursan, the Surety, fourth Baron of Hamlake Manor, was born in 1177. When only fifteen years of age he had paid a thousand marks' fine for livery of his lands, and in 1197 when aged twenty years, while with the King of Normandy, he was arrested, though we know nothing of the offense, and was committed to the custody of Hugh de Chaumont. However, de Chaumont trusted his prisoner to William de Spiney, and the latter allowed him to escape out of the Castle of Bonville. King Richard thereupon hanged de Spiney and collected a fine of twelve hundred marks, about eight hundred pounds, from Roos' guardian as the price of his continued freedom.
When John became King, he gave young Roos the whole Barony of his great grandmother's father, Walter d'Espec, as conciliation. About the 14th of King John, Robert assumed the habit of a monk, whereupon the custody of all his lands and Castle Werke, were committed to Philip d'Ulcote. But Robert did not long continue as a recluse, as in about a year he was executing the office of high sheriff of co. Cumberland. At the beginning of the struggle of the Barons for a constitutional government, he at first sided with King John and, in consequence, obtained some valuable grants from the Crown. He was made governor of Carlisle, but was later won over by the Barons. He returned to his allegiance in the reign of Henry III for, in 1217/8, his manors were restored to him, and, although he was a witness to the second Great Charter and the Forest Charter of 1224, he seems to have been in favor with the King.
Roos erected the Castles of Helmsley, or Hamlake, in Yorkshire, and of Werke, in Northumberland. He was a member of the Order of Knights Templar. He died in 1226/7 and was buried "in his proper habit" in the Knights' Church, or the New Temple in London, where his tomb may be seen. His effigy is described by Gough, in "Sepulchral Monuments," as "the most elegant of all the figures in the Temple Church, representing a comly young knight in mail, and a flowing mantle with a kind of cowl; his hair neatly curled at the sides; his crown appears shaved. His hands are elevated in a praying posture, and on his left arm is a short, pointed shield charged with three water-bougets. He has on his left side a long sword, and the armor of his legs, which are crossed, has a ridge, or a seam up the front, continued over the knee. At his feet is a lion, and the whole figure measures six feet two inches." He married Isabel, daughter of William the Lion, King of Scotland, and widow of Robert Bruce.
Appreciation is expressed to Reed M. W. Wurts, one of the Heralds of the Society for furnishing the Barons Shield on this page.