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The Whitney Family of Whitney Castle,
in the Wye Valley

Eleanor Whitney

who had married
Richard Bull,

is one of a family
of noble and illustrious heritage.

The Whitneys

Eleanor (Whitney) Bull


(her ancestry...

not one to disregard as a nobody!


I found the following fascinating true tale
of the Whitney family's origins
along with William the Conqueror.

Whitneys in the Middle Ages

by Joe Whitney

(extracts from)

The historical record of the Whitney family begins around 1066 A.D.
with a brave knight who was referred to as either Turstin the White
for his fair complexion, or Turstin the Fleming for having come from
Flanders, which today can be found in the lowlands of Belgium.

After landing on shore, William's army marched inland to meet
Harold and his army, who were rushing back from having just fought off
invading Vikings in northern England. The two armies clashed near
Hastings, at a place then called Senlac, and known today as Battle. As
the two armies prepared for battle, William asked one and then another
of his leading knights to carry the Gonfannon and stay by him, so his
subordinates could locate him in battle. But knowing that both the
flag and William would be a visible target for the enemy and a magnet
for danger, they both declined.

Turstin the Fleming apparently had no such fears, and gladly
accepted both the honor and peril of carrying the flag. It is reported
that he played a vital role, bearing the banner "boldly, high aloft in
the breeze, and rode beside the Duke, going wherever he went." Seeing
the holy banner waving in their faces must have further emphasized to
the Saxons that they fought not only against the upstart Duke from
Normandy, but the Holy Mother Church as well.

At a critical moment, rumors swept the Norman lines that William
was killed, causing them to waver. To counteract this, William took
off his helmet and rode along the lines to show he still lived.
Turstin no doubt rode along with him.

Just as the sun began to set, Harold was killed, probably by an
arrow piercing his eye, and his forces were slaughtered as they fled
the field. The account of the battle was recorded in the Bayeux
Tapestry, where the story of the battle was told in images handwoven
into a long cloth. Of the thousands of participants, few are expressly
represented on the cloth, but Turstin is shown riding along bearing
the Gonfannon.

Having conquered a nation, William set about making it his own,
confiscating most holdings of the Saxon nobility, and doling out vast
tracts to his most loyal supporters. Turstin obtained land in the Wye
Valley region along the Welsh frontier, especially in Pencombe near
Wigmore Castle, and so is sometimes referred to as Turstin de Wigmore,
meaning Turstin of Wigmore. About this time, we find the earliest
recorded mention of the region called Whitney in the old Saxon tongue,
in the Domesday Book, which was commissioned by William to survey his
newly won kingdom. There it is called "Witenie, King's land".

Over time, the English kings tried to exert authority over their
lands and those of the Welsh. But up through the 1500's, the Whitneys
belonged to that class of nobles which lived on the outer reaches of
royal control. They were called Lords of the Marches, and they
maintained their own small armies, ruling over their own lands, not
officially part of England, nor of Wales. Rather than the rule of King
or parliament, the only real law was the power of the sword, and a
neighbor's lands and castle were yours if you could take and hold
them. One source described the Whitney family as "doing perpetual
battle in their own behalf, and except when it suited their purposes,
bidding defiance to right and law".

Being one of the most powerful families in the shire, or county, of
Hereford, the Whitneys appeared to have maintain a near monopoly on
the position of Sheriff of Herefordshire, with descendants serving
often one generation after another over the centuries.

With power over a substantial part of the border, the Lords of the
Marches could, by providing or withholding support, influence royal
policies, obtain benefits and high appointments in the royal
household, and perhaps even affect who would be the next king. But in
Medieval England, the more you supported one claimant to the throne,
the greater your danger, should another rival succeed.

All of these conditions naturally exposed the Whitney family to
much danger, from constant raids by the Welsh, conflicts with many
powerful neighboring warlords, and political fallout resulting from
the frequent struggles for the crown by various royal relatives. The
principle of primogeniture, where the bulk of the estate passed to the
eldest son, probably caused resentment among brothers, but the
constant warfare also resulted in a high casualty rate among the male
members of the noble families.

Throughout all of England's military struggles, the Whitneys were
there, playing prominent roles. On the Crusades, the Whitneys were
well represented. This probably provided the design for the coat of
arms, since a cross prominently featured is generally accepted as
indicating participation in a crusade.

According to one tradition, the addition of a bull's head above the
shield is stated as having come from a particular incident during the

Whitney holdings had greatly increased in 1404, when Henry IV, in
return for the loyalty and sacrifice of the Whitneys at Pilleth,
granted to the surviving heir Robert Whitney the temporary possession
of the castle and lands of Clifford, two miles west of Whitney, being
the only castle in the surrounding area that had been spared by the
Welsh. This became the temporary seat of the family, until Whitney
castle could be rebuilt. About 176 years later, the Whitneys would
finally be granted permanent possession of Clifford, which was added
to the estate. Clifford Castle was most likely an old Saxon castle.

When his son Henry V took his army to France and fought and
defeated a French army vastly outnumbering his, Whitneys fought there
as well. In fact, Henry, was so pleased with the "trustworthiness and
shrewdness of our beloved and faithful Robert Whitney", that he
appointed him Captain of the castle and town of Vire, France."



some ideas occurred to me...

1. is Vire, France, anything to do with
the de Veres?

2. and I like the mention of

"a bull's head above the shield"

**** a nice coincidence with
Eleanor Whitney's married name!

3. might this apply to Eleanor

"One source described the Whitney family as "doing perpetual battle in
their own behalf, and except when it suited their purposes, bidding
defiance to right and law"."

"With power over a substantial part of the border, the Lords of the
Marches could, by providing or withholding support, influence royal
policies, obtain benefits and high appointments in the royal
household, and perhaps even affect..."

she certainly came from a powerful and
battle-ready family!

and might have quite happily "done battle"
with authorities over the Deptford case.

especially as she is a relative
of the Admiral's wife,
and of Blanche Parry,
the Queen's confidante.

Whitney Castle

nice stuff about the castle,
of Eleanor Bull (Whitney)'s ancestors.


Whitney Castle, Whitney on Wye.

SMR NO. 1192 GRID REF: SO 2725 4654

Whitney on Wye is on the North bank of the River Wye close to the
Radnorshire border. The site is just to the south of Old Whitney Court
and on the west side of the River Wye.

Description of the site today.

There is no trace of a castle at this site now but tradition says
that beneath the river which dramatically changed its course in 1730,
are still to e seen masses of masonry which may have belonged to the

In 1675 although there was no trace of a castle tower some
residents are said to have recollection of a building at this site.
(Blount MS)

It was apparently a motte and bailey castle, formerly on a spit of
gravel on a bend in the River Wye.

In 1976 Several lumps of mortared masonry and lots of stone with
mortar attached were seen in the river, up to of a mile from the


Although it is not possible to trace the history of the castle we
can trace some of the history of the family who took their name from
this place. The Whitney family can trace their descent from Turstin
the Fleming who held both Pencomb and Whitney.

1283: Eustachius de Whitney had a grant of free warren in Whitney and
in 1306 was knighted under King Edward I. The family is also said to
have taken part in The Crusades (the Holy Wars fought over Jerusalem
-they began in 1096 and continued well into the 13th century).

1377: Robert Whitney was Sheriff of Herefordhsire and was also Knight
of the Shire, as were several of his relatives.

1640's: At the time of the English Civil War Sir Robert Whitney was
head of the family, and a devoted Royalist who gave much of his estate
to support the King. By his death in 1653 the lands in Pencombe had
been sold and his on;y son had produced no male heir and so the name
became extinct and the property was divided between the daughters.


Did Kit Marlowe stay at Whitney-on-Wye?
and if so, why?

did the Lord High Admiral
Lord Howard of Effingham
save Kit Marlowe at Deptford?

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(written originally by lyra, edited and rewritten)