The medieval muniments at Berkeley Castle form one of the largest and most remarkable accumulations in the country of records relating to the ownership and administration of land. By grants from the Crown, by purchase and by marriage the Berkeleys acquired estates not only in Gloucestershire and the adjoining counties but right across England.
The founder of the Berkeley family's landed estate was Robert FitzHarding, a merchant of Bristol, who used his wealth to support the Empress Maud in her struggle against King Stephen. From the empress's half-brother Robert earl of Gloucester FitzHarding bought estates south of Bristol and by her son, King Henry II,he was granted the great estate centred on Berkeley, from which his descendants took their surname. From the late 13th century onwards the Berkeleys added to the patrimony inherited from FitzHarding by an active policy of purchase and by a succession of prudent or fortunate marriages: some of their wives brought with them marriage portions, while others, more significantly, were heiresses or, through the failure of the male heirs in their families, passed inheritances to their descendants.
As a result of such matrimonial alliances, within the archive at Berkeley Castle are muniments of the estates of the Lisles (including inheritances of the FitzGerold, Armenters, Foliot, Tyeys and Pipard families), of the Bluets (including the inheritance of the ap Rees family), of the Mowbrays (including inheritances of the Beauchamp of Bedford, Breouse, Arundel, Segrave, Chaucombe and Brotherton families), the Blounts, the Shirleys (including inheritances of the Drayton, Prayers, Cranford and Lovet families), the Careys (including inheritances of the Butler and Boleyn families) and of the Stanhopes (including the inheritance of the Wachesham family). More than half of the catalogue concerns places in Gloucestershire, but the muniments also relate to estates in all but four of the other old shire counties of England and there are documents about places in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France.
This volume deals with the Berkeley estate.
Note: Only a good, secondhand copy is available.