© Donal G. Burke 2013
The Crok or Croke family were Anglo-Norman tenants of the de Burgh overlords of Connacht who held lands and maintained a presence in the eastern region of the Anglo-Norman lordship until at least the early fourteenth century.
The Croks first appear in the landscape of east Galway about the early thirteenth century. Richard de Burgh was granted Connacht in 1226, an earlier grant of which given to Richard’s father William had been revoked by the King.[i] William Crok was a supporter of Richard de Burgh and was granted lands within Síl Anmchadha, the ancestral territory of the O Maddens in the east of Connacht by de Burgh sometime between 1226 and 1233.
By 1232-3 Richard de Burgh and his uncle Hubert de Burgh had fallen foul of the King of England, to the extent that he was deprived of his Connacht lands by the King, who was encouraging Felim O Connor to take Meelick castle, then being held by de Burgh and his supporters. By aligning himself with the King in the war against the King’s enemy Richard Marshall, de Burgh succeeded in having the grant of Connacht restored to him by 1234, in which year Marshall was killed in Ireland.
In 1235 de Burgh and his allies succeeded in establishing themselves as overlords over the greater part of Connacht and Crok was among those party to the acquisition of lands within the lordship. William Crok’s lands in Connacht were situated not distant from the strategically important crossing point of Meelick on the River Shannon. Prior to the actual conquest of 1235 Crok had been gifted by Richard de Burgh the vill of ‘Crokeveyl’ but when de Burgh was disseised of Connacht about 1232 Crok’s rights to the vill appear to have also been affected. In 1241 the Crown ordered the Justiciar to give seisin to Crok of the vill ‘as he had before the war between the King and Richard Marshall, late Earl of Pembroke.’[ii]
‘Crokeveyl’ may have been the modern townland of Craughwell in the parish of Kiltormer, to the west of Redmount Hill in the modern East Galway, given its proximity to the early de Burgh fortification at Meelick. In the 1333 Inquisition into the property and dues of the de Burgh Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connacht, rent or ‘one pair of spurs’ was due to the Earl from ‘one townland in Croghill’ in the cantred of Síl Anmchadha.[iii] (However, the Croks were associated with a denomination called Coychill, part of the Manor of Ardahan, much further west in Connacht, by at least 1289. In that year one Thomas Crok held that denomination and Nicholas Crok held the same in 1321.)[iv] Colonists such as the Croks held their new lands alongside the O Maddens, but the O Maddens, under the de Burghs, were, for the most part, relegated to the status of tenants occupying some of the poorer lands in their own territory.
William Crok’s landed interests were not confined to Crokeveyl and he and Richard de Burgh were in dispute by 1242 over a claim Crok made to the lands de Burgh held at Meelick.[v] In that year Richard de Burgh hired ships and sailed to France with a number of his knights to serve the King in his wars in Gascony and Bordeaux.[vi] In doing so the King granted him letters of protection and freedom from pleas in court. On his setting out on that service the Justiciar found against him in the case brought by Crok and disseised de Burgh of lands in his demesne at Meelick.[vii] De Burgh made representations to the King in Bordeaux who ordered the Justiciar in Ireland in January 1243 to ensure that de Burgh was restored to those lands ‘whereof he was disseised by judgement of the King’s court after date of the King’s letter of protection.’
William Crok himself travelled overseas to fight in the Kings service ‘in parts beyond the seas’ about that same time, apparently in Poitou and Gascony.[viii] In July of 1243 King Henry III, then in Bordeaux, favoured William Crok, together with Gerald FitzMaurice and Henry de la Chapelle with a grant ‘that they and their tenants by knights service be quit of the aid assessed in Ireland to the King’s use.’[ix]
Richard de Burgh died on his service overseas by August of 1243.[x] As his eldest son and heir, Richard, was a minor at his father’s death his property would pass into the King’s hands until his heir came of age. William Crok was holding the castle at Meelick in the years immediately following de Burgh’s death and in November 1245 was ordered to deliver the same castle up to the Justiciar in Ireland or those whom he assigned.[xi] Crok, however, remained tenant of the castle until 1247, whereupon the young Richard de Burgh came of age and into his inheritance. In September of that year the Justiciar was mandated by the King to have those holding the castles and lands of de Burgh deliver up to him his properties. The castle and land at Meelick was to be delivered by William Crok to the new overlord.[xii]
William Croc, alongside other Anglo-Normans such as Sir Walter de Valle, Gilbert de Valle and William Haket, appears as a witness to a number of legal transactions involving the transfer of lands about the manor of Aughrim, north of Meelick (in the adjacent cantred of Omany) between Theobald Butler, Sir Richard de Rupella and others about 1270.[xiii] Butler initially acquired various estates in the Anglo-Norman cantred of Omany, which formed part of the ancestral lands of the O Kelly’s, and between 1282 and 1285 he acquired from de Rupalla’s son Phillip not only the entire cantred of Omany but also de Rupella’s lands of Lusmach on the eastern bank of the River Shannon across from the castle of Meelick.[xiv]
The lands of William Crok were raided in 1285 by a Gaelic force Aodh O Connor and Flann O Melaghlin, but by then Anglo-Norman control of the eastern region of the Connacht lordship was such that the force assembled under Sir Theobald Butler to give chase to the raiders composed for a large part of the O Maddens and O Kellys of Uí Maine together with Irish from across the Shannon such as the O Carrolls of Eile and O Mulryans.[xv]
The wider family appear to have held landed interests in Tipperary and elsewhere in Ireland, with Nicholas Crok fined in the court of Tipperary on a number of occasions, in 1288, 1290 and 1291 for such offences as trespass and failure to attend on being summoned.[xvi] Others of the family were also involved in land transactions in England in the mid to late thirteenth century, where Alexander Crok gave a tenement in ‘Estricheholt in la Pole’ in Somerset to William de Marisco in exchange ‘for twenty marchates of annual rent in Ireland.’ (This would appear to be Stretcholt in the hundred of North Petherton in the county of Somerset, listed in the Domesday Book with a total population of nine households.) Nicholas, son and heir of Alexander Crok was ‘summoned by aid of court in the county of Tipperary’ in relation to a legal dispute over the tenement in 1283.[xvii] The same Nicholas was required to appear in what appears to be the same case, involving one Maurice Crok, in 1281 but on that occasion he was unavailable ‘being beyond the seas.’[xviii]
The family had multiplied significantly by the beginning of the fourteenth century. A number of the Crok family were accused of felonies and other wrongdoings in the early years of the fourteenth century, the principal member of whom appears to have been one John Crok, knight. One Milo Crok was charged in the courts ‘with the death of one John Crynan and other felonies done in Connacht in the company of John Crok’ and in 1305 was placed ‘under the tuition of the peace’ until the following ‘quinzaine of St. John the Baptist.’[xix] Later in the same year the magnate Edmund le Botiller or Butler undertook to have before the Justiciar when he next appeared in County Tipperary the persons of John son of Nicholas Crok, one John son of William and Walter de Cantewell, ‘charged with robberies and other felonies, done in the company of John Crok in County Connacht.’[xx] The three accused in the meantime were being held at the King’s castle at Roscrea. The depredations in Connacht appear to have involved damage to the lands there of Geoffrey de Valle, for which one John de Burgh was detained in prison in Dublin about 1305 on charges of felony, arson, robbery and other crimes ‘committed in the company of John Crok, knight.’[xxi]
Many of the family were among those fined two hundred marks for trespass by February of 1306. Those fined were John Crok, knight, John son of Nicholas Crok, Walter Cauntewell, Nicholas son of Thomas Crok, Alexander Crok, William son of Thomas Crok, Walter, Stephen and Robert, brothers of John Crok, Henry son of Maurice Crok, Richard son of Maurice Crok, Henry son of Thomas Crok, William son of Thomas Crok, John son of William, Stephen son of Nicholas Crok, Adam son of Henry Crok, Milo son of Alexander Crok, Thomas son of Eustace Crok and Henry son of Thomas le Blound.[xxii] John’s pre-eminence among those others of the family fined is suggested in his being the only member referred to as a knight.
In May 1296 Richard de Burgh the Red Earl of Ulster, Theobald Butler and John FitzThomas joined Edward II at Roxboro with over three thousand horse, archers and men for service in Scotland. One Nicholas Crok was among a number of individuals granted monies by the King, on the advice of the Irish Justiciar in 1297, for horses lost by them in the Kings service in the wars in Scotland.[xxiii]
Sarra, widow of Philip Crok and Mabilla, widow of Eustace Crok made a legal appeal in what was then the county of Connacht against Walter de Valle, it would appear attributing responsibility to him for the death of their husbands. Walter, who ‘rendered himself to the King’s prison’, disputed the nature of the accusations. Both women were commanded to appear before John Wogan, the Justiciar in Ireland, in April of 1306 in relation to the case, but on the day the Sheriff reported that neither could be located. Both were then required to appear ‘at the house of Robert Haket and Nicholas Crok, their pledges to prosecute.’[xxiv]
In 1311 Sir John de Croke or Crok was slain in battle near Bunratty while serving as standard-bearer to the Red Earl’s powerful cousin and occasional representative in Connacht, Sir William liath ‘the grey-haired’ de Burgh.[xxv] The position of banner or standard-bearer, regarded as a privilege during the medieval period, would appear to testify to the eminent position of Crok among the Anglo-Norman knights in de Burgh’s following at that time.[xxvi]
The Anglo-Norman presence in Síl Anmchadha at the time of the killing of William de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster in 1333 was recorded in an Inquisition Post Mortem, a survey of the entire lordship, undertaken by the Anglo-Norman administration to enable the Crown assess the extent of the late Earls property and dues. In the Inquisition two principal Anglo-Norman tenants were recorded in Síl Anmchadha, Geoffrey de la Vale and the heirs of Henry Crok.[xxvii]
The borough of Meelick itself fell into decline after 1333 as the Gaelic Irish gained the upper hand locally about Meelick in the wake of the Earls murder and the Anglo-Norman colony in Síl Anmchadha failed to recover in the face of a resurgent Gaelic aristocracy. The O Maddens regained effective overall control of their ancient patrimony, made easier by the paucity of significant Anglo-Norman landholders based in the cantred, and took possession of de Burgh’s castle at Meelick. With regard to the Croks or de Crokes, their estates appear to have been expunged in the Gaelic resurgence and they thereafter disappear as a significant presence in the cantred landscape.
[i] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 212, 1226, June 30 (1403) The King to Geoffrey de Mariscis, justiciary of Ireland. Mandate that when he shall have taken into the king’s hand the land of Connaught on account of the forfeiture of Oethus, son of Kathal, formerly King thereof, he grant seisin thereof to Richard de Burgh, to hold of the King at a rent of 300 marks for the first 5 years and 500 marks subsequently; 5 of the best cantreds nearest to the castle of Athlone to be retained for the king’s use. Windsor.
[ii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 377, 1241, Sept 28, (2536) Mandate to Maurice FitzGerald, justiciary of Ireland, that, having taken from William Crok good security for the King’s indemnity, he give such seisin to William of the vill of Crokeveyl, of the gift of Richard de Burgh, as he had before the war between the King and Richard Marshall, late Earl of Pembroke. Westminster. (Close, 25 Hen. III, m.3)
[iii] Knox, H.T., Occupation of Connaught by the Anglo-Normans after A.D. 1237 (Continued) J.R.S.A.I., Fifth Series, Vol. 32, No.4, 1902, Part II, p. 394.
[iv] Holland, P., The Anglo-Norman Landscape in County Galway; Land-holdings, Castles and Settlements, J.G.A.H.S., Vol. 49, 1997, p. 191.
[v] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 386-7, 1243, January 2 (2595). Richard de Burgh represents to the King that after he had started to come to the Kings service in parts beyond the seas, and the King had granted to him letters of protection and acquittance from all pleas, he was adjudged in his absence to lose seisin of his lands in Ireland, because William Croc claimed a right to them by reason of a fine made before the King’s justices there. Mandate to Maurice FitzGerald, justiciary of Ireland, to cause Richard to be reseised of all the lands whereof he was disseised by judgement of the King’s court after date of the King’s letter of protection. Bordeaux.
[vi] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 384. 1242, Sept. 7 (2573). Richard was in Bordeaux in 1242 as he witnessed a charter there dated September 7th of that year to Maurice FitzGriffin.
[vii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 387, 1243, January 3 (2596). The King to Maurice Fitzgerald, justiciary of Ireland. Richard de Burgh represents that after he had started to come on the Kings service in parts beyond the seas, and the King had granted to him letters of acquittance from all pleas, the justiciary caused him to be adjudged and disseised of lands in his demesne of Maloc by reason of a fine made before the King’s justices in Ireland between the said Richard and William Croc, who claims a right to the lands. Mandate, as in the previous extract, to the justiciary of Ireland. Bordeaux.
[viii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 392. 1243, June 22 (2627). Mandate to the justiciary of Ireland, that if William Croc, on the king’s service in parts beyond the sea, has after obtaining the King’s letter of protection lost seisin of any land by any plea other than the 3 pleas contained in those letters, the justiciary shall reseise him, unless Richard de Burgh shall have recovered seisin of the land by reason of such letters. Bordeaux.
[ix] Sweetman & Handcock (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland 1171-1307, 1875-86, 2627. (CDI 2631)
[x] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 393. 1243, 28 August (2636) Mandate to Maurice FitzGerald, justiciary of Ireland, to take into the King’s hand the castles, lands and tenements whereof Richard de Burgh was seised when he died, and to safely keep them til further orders; saving to Egidia, who was Richard’s wife, her estover until dower be assigned to her. The justiciary shall also send to England Richard’s 3 previously born children. Bordeaux.
[xi] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 417. 1245. November 16, No. 2792. Mandate to Philip de Interberg, constable of the King’s castle of Limerick and of Castle Conaing, to deliver those castles with the counties of Munster and Limerick, to John FitzGeoffrey, justiciary of Ireland, or his assigns, bearing letters patent of the King and of the justiciary. Woodstock. Similar letters to the following persons regarding the delivery of castles, &c.:- Simon Muridac, constable of the King’s castle of Dublin, touching the delivery of that castle and the countie of Dublin. John de Cravill, of the castle of Athlone, with the bailiwick thereto belonging. Hugh Tyrel, the castle of Drogheda. Robert de Capella, the castle of Randon. William Croc, the castle of Meylac. Meyler de Bermingham, the castle of Roscre. Adam Buse, the castle of Mayllonach.
[xii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, 1171-1251, London, Longman & Co., 1875, p. 434, September 17, 1247, No. 2908. The King, having restored to Richard de Burgh all his lands and tenements which were in the King’s hand while Richard was under age, with all the issues thereof from the first week of Quadragesima last past, mandate to John FitzGeoffrey, justiciary of Ireland, to cause seisin to be given to Richard of his castle of Wylekin held by William de Eskales; his land of Miloc held by William Crok; his land of Mecherye held by peter de Ber…………; his land in locherye held by John Livet, Richard de Burgh and Marmaduke de Eschales; his castles of Caylly and Kyrky held by Maurice FitzGerald; all the islands in the lakes of Lochhurse and Lomaske held by the said Maurice, which ought to be in the King’s hand by reason of the custody; together with the issues of those lands, castles, and islands from the above-mentioned date. The justiciary shall distrain those lands, castles, and islands to render to the King the issues thereof from Richard’s death to the first week of Quadragisma above named. Westminster. (Close, 31 Henry III, m.3)
[xiii] Curtis, E. (ed.), Calendar of Ormond Deeds, Vol. i, 1172-1350 A.D., Dublin, I.M.C., 1932, pp. 67-8.
[xiv] N.L.I., Dublin, D. 332.
[xv] Murphy S.J., Rev. D. (ed.), The Annals of Clonmacnoise from the earliest period to A.D. 1408, translated into English A.D. 1627 by Conell Mageoghegan, Dublin, University Press for the R.S.A.I., 1896, pp. 254-6.
[xvi] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, 1285-1292, London, Longman & Co., 1879, p. 214, 1288. Tipperary. ‘Nicholas Crok, fine for having peace. 40s.’ p. 355. 1290. ‘Tipperary. Nicholas Crok the bastard and others, because they came not when summoned. A half mark.’ p.433. 1291. ‘Tipperary. Nicholas Crok, fine for trespass, 40s.’
[xvii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, 1252-1284, London, Longman & Co., 1879, p.483. Trinity (circa. June) 1283, No. 2090. Ireland: Somerset: The justices itinerant in the county of Somerset had been commanded to send before the King the record and process of plaints before them between Maurice Crok, plaintiff and William de Marisco and Walter Asketel, tenants, of a messauge and lands in Estricheholt in la Pole. The record was sent and is recited at length. The said Walter produces a charter of Nicholas, son and heir of Alexander Crok, of full age, which witnesses that the said Alexander gave to the said William the tenement aforesaid in exchange for twenty marchates of annual rent in Ireland and demands that Nicholas is summoned by aid of court in the county of Tipperary, Ireland. The said William produces a charter of Alexander, father of the said Nicholas, witnessing that Alexander gave to William the tenement aforesaid in exchange as above, and also demands that Nicholas be summoned in Ireland. Afterwards, before the King and his court it was adjudged that, as Ireland is of the King’s demesne, that William should have his warranty in the same way as if Nicholas held land in England. The Justiciary in Ireland was therefore commanded to summon Nicholas to be before the King in three weeks of Michaelmas, a.r. 9-10. Nicholas continually essoined himself until Michaelmas 10-11, when it was adjudged, as he did not appear, that there should be taken out of his land in Ireland in the King’s hand twenty-eight acres of arable land and eighty acres of moor and pasture. Judgement that Maurice recover seisin against William and Walter, that Walter have out of the land claimed against him to the value of William’s land and that William have out of Nicholas’ land in Ireland to the value of the tenements aforesaid.’
[xviii] Sweetman, H.S. (ed.), Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, 1252-1284, London, Longman & Co., 1879, p.398. Michaelmas (circa September) 1281, No. 1859. Respite till the quinzane of Michaelmas of a plea of land in which Nicholas Crok is vouched to warranty against Maurice Crok, Nicholas Crok being beyond the seas.
[xix] Mills, J. (ed.), Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls or proceedings in the court of the Justiciar of Ireland, Edward I, Part 2, XXXIII to XXXV years, London, A. Thom & Co. Ltd., 1914, p. 44.
[xx] Mills, J. (ed.), Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls or proceedings in the court of the Justiciar of Ireland, Edward I, Part 2, XXXIII to XXXV years, London, A. Thom & Co. Ltd., 1914, p. 125.
[xxi] Mills, J. (ed.), Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls or proceedings in the court of the Justiciar of Ireland, Edward I, Part 2, XXXIII to XXXV years, London, A. Thom & Co. Ltd., 1914, pp. 465-6.
[xxii] Mills, J. (ed.), Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls or proceedings in the court of the Justiciar of Ireland, Edward I, Part 2, XXXIII to XXXV years, London, A. Thom & Co. Ltd., 1914, p. 491.
[xxiii] Irish Exchequer Payments. Among those others were Hugh Byset, Thomas de Maundevyle and Hilary de Burgh.
[xxiv] Mills, J. (ed.), Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls or proceedings in the court of the Justiciar of Ireland, Edward I, Part 2, XXXIII to XXXV years, London, A. Thom & Co. Ltd., 1914, p. 341. 35 Edward I.
[xxv] Annals of Inisfallen, 1311. No. 4. ‘agus do marbad ann fod Sira Seoan de Cruac, fear brataighi in Burcaid.’
[xxvi] Bartlett, R., England under the Norman and Angevin kings 1075-1225, The New Oxford History of England, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2000, p.246
[xxvii] Knox, H.T., Occupation of Connaught by the Anglo-Normans after A.D. 1237 (Continued) J.R.S.A.I., Fifth Series, Vol. 32, No.4, 1902, Part II, p. 394.