Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Narford, Robert

NARFORD, NERFORD, or NEREFORD, ROBERT (d. 1225), constable of Dover Castle, was the son of Sir Richard de Nerford, by his wife, Christian, and inherited from his parents Nerford Manor in Norfolk (Blomefield, Hist. of Norfolk, v. 119; he does not name his authority). He married Alice, daughter and coheiress of John Pouchard, and so came into possession of lands between Creyk and Burnham Thorp. On a meadow there called Lingerescroft he founded a little chapel (1206) called Sancta Maria de Pratis (Mon. Angl. vi. 487). His wife's sister Joan married Reyner de Burgh, and her two sons were Hubert de Burgh [q. v.] and Geoffrey de Burgh, bishop of Ely (Dodsworth MS. cxxx. f. 3, and the Harl. MS. 294, f. 148 b; see, too, Blomefield, x. 265, quoting Philipps MS.) To his relationship with Hubert, Narford no doubt owed the favour of King John; in October 1215 John ordered Hubert de Burgh to give Narford seisin of lands in Kent (Rot. Claus. i. 230). On 18 March 1216 John addressed a patent to Narford as bailiff at one of the seaports (Rot. Pat. p. 170 b); probably he was a custodian of Dover Castle, of which Hubert de Burgh was chief constable (Richard de Coggeshall, ed. Stevenson, p. 185; cf. Rot. Claus. p. 259). When Hubert de Burgh defeated Eustace le Moine in the naval battle of the Straits of Dover, fought on St. Bartholomew's day (24 Aug. 1217), Narford was present; and, to commemorate the victory, he founded, at his wife's desire, a hospital for thirteen poor men, one master, and four chaplains, by the side of his earlier foundation at Lingerescroft. His cousin Geoffrey, bishop of Ely, dedicated the house to St. Bartholomew in 1221 (Mon. Angl. vi. 487). After Narford's death the master, at his widow's wish, took the Austin habit, and was called Prior of the Canons of St. Mary de Pratis; in 1230 Henry III accepted the patronage of the house and made it an abbey (ib. vi. 488).

When Hubert de Burgh became chief justiciar, Narford was made chief constable of Dover (ib. vi. 487), and received a salary of twenty marks a year (Rot. Claus i. 514). In 1220 he received a precept to summon the barons of the Cinque Ports to his court at Shepway (Pat. 5, Hen. 3, quoted by J. Lyon, ii. 203).

In March 1224 he received payments as an ambassador to foreign parts (Rot. Claus. i. 582 seq.). Narford died in 1225, and his son Nicholas succeeded to his estates (ib. ii. 40).

[Rotuli Literarum Clausarum, vols. i. ii.; Rot. Lit. Patentium, ed. Hardy; Lyon's Hist. of Dover, ii. 203; Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, vols. v. x.; Monasticon Anglicanum, vi. 486 seq; Harl. MS. 294, f. 148 b, No. 2898.]

M. B.