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History of FitzHarris Castle in Abingdon in the Royal County of Berkshire
by David Nash Ford

F I T Z H A R R I S
C A S T L E

A Castle in Dispute

The FitzHarris estate, just north of central Abingdon, was given to a Norman knight called Owen just after the Conquest. He was one of thirty new landowners imposed on Abingdon Abbey by King William the Conqueror. The motte of his castle can still be seen off Kingston Close. Owen's 13th century descendant, Hugh FitzHarry, gave the place its name. With his lands came the right to gather up all stray livestock and extract compensation for any damage caused before their return. Hugh, of course, set the fines himself and was rather over zealous in their collection. He thus became a deeply hated man in the town. Suddenly, for some unknown reason, Hugh turned to religion and decided to join the Knights Templar on crusade in the Holy Land. All his lands were therefore put up for sale.

The Abbey was, naturally enough, very keen to purchase the FitzHarry's Manor and negotiated a price of 1,000 marks (666 13s 4d), despite strong competition from the Earl of Cornwall. A third of the asking price was to be given over to FitzHarry when the Abbey took possession on St. Michael's Day 1247. However, when the monks arrived, they found that Hugh and his cronies had set themselves up in their hall with a great banquet and they weren't about to move on. Keen to carry out the terms of their contract, the monks were forced to send in the Rector of Wytham to negotiate. FitzHarry eventually capitulated and, in front of a large crowd that had gathered, he was ejected to Shippon.



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