The family which provided the lords of the manor of Great Mongeham from the twelfth to the end of the fifteenth century was among the most powerful in the land. Variously written as Criel, Cryoll and Kyriell they were the Kyriel family, Lords of Westhanger and of several East Kent Manors, as well as estates throughout the land.

The origins of the family are somewhat obscure but the Criols undoubtedly accompanied William at the Battle of Hastings. According to the Duchess of Cleveland in her account of the Battle abbey Roll they probably descended from Estriel, from Normandy.The earliest mentioned is John de Criol, who in 1194 gave the church of Sarres in Thanet to Ledes (Leeds) Priory. Although there is no record he probably held the manor of Great Mongeham as it was in the possession of his son when he obtained the charter for the fair.

Walmer Manor House Ruins
Walmer Manor House Ruins
Coat of arms of Bertram de Crio
Coat of arms of Bertram de Crio

He had four sons, the eldest of whom was Bertram. Bertram was to become one of the most trusted knights from the retinue of King Henry III who madehim Warden of the Cinque Ports, and Sheriff of Kent. As a trusted servant he received many royal favours which helped him accumulate his wealth. This included lucrative wardships, an example being granted “the residue of waste and seisin of the land formerly of John de Bendenges to the use of Thomas, son and heir of Peter de Bendenges, which is in Bertram’s custody, until the lawful age of the same Thomas”. He was also made Custos of Canterbury when the archbishopric was vacant in 1228, 1246 and1248. This gave him access to the wealth from the church properties during that time.

Bertram increased his wealth and fortune by marriage to Elianora, daughter of Hamo de Crevequer and Matilda, the only daughter of Willelm de Averenches, lord of the barony of Averenches also known as the barony of Folkestone. It was little wonder that he was known as the Great Lord of Kent.

As Warden of the Cinque Ports Bertram was also Constable of Dover castle. In 1252 the king ordered “the sheriff of Kent to cause all wines in his bailiwick to be sold and to cause the monies arising therefrom to be delivered to Bertram de Criel, constable of Dover, in order to undertake the works on the castle there therewith”, no doubt adding to the Criol fortune.

Three Criols Named Nicholas

His son, Nicholas also made an advantageous marriage (in 1247) to Joan, sole daughter and heir of William de Auberville and the widow of Sir Henry de Sandwich, in whose right she was Lady of Westenhanger. It is through her that the Criols became lords of Westhanger Castle and its estates. Walmer and Oxney Manors were also part of the inheritance. He too became Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Sheriff of Kent.

n 1256 Nicholas presented with a writ of military summons to join the King to oppose the Welsh under Llewellyn in 1256. The feudal system worked on a principle of knight’s fees or feoffs. All the land of the kingdom belonged to the king, under whom lands were held by the barons. Farmland was distributed among the many manors. Occasionally a lord held just one manor, but more usually barons, monasteries and bishops held many manors and each manor was either controlled directly by the lord or more usually, especially as the Middle Ages progressed, by a bailiff. Frequently manors were held by minor gentry who held the land in knight’s fee to their immediate lord. A knight’s fee was a measure of land which could support a knight for a year, and the area depended on the productivity of the land. A manor could therefore be of one or two knight’s fees or often just a part, a half or a quarter. For example the list of knight’s fees for 1253 contains the following “Nicol de Criol holds the manor of Walmer’ for one knight’s fee of the honour of Folkestane. Johan son of Robert de Boynton’ holds half a fee in Langed from Nicol de Criol’ and his wife. Willelm de Langed’ holds in the same (Langed’) one quarter of a knight’s fee from the same”. Thus Johan and Willelm owed three quarters of a knight’s fee for Langed to Nicholas and Nicholas owed a knight’s fee to the king for Walmer. In all Nicholas was responsible for several knight’s fees. Thus when the call was made to go to Wales, Nicholas was obliged to go.

Nicholas was succeeded by his son, also Nicholas who, having attended Edward I in his foreign wars, was summoned to Parliament in 1296

The Criols were frequently involved in disputes over land and property. In 1263 Eynsford castle and estate were divided between the Kirkeby and Criol families, and they constantly fought over their respective rights. Matters came to a head in in 1312 when the Kirkebys sold the castle to Judge William Inge, an assize justice and advisor to King Edward II. A band of men under Nicholas de Criol (son of Nicholas) broke into Eynsford Castle and ransacked it, apparently resulting in its abandonment.

in 1324, in the reign of Edward II Nicholas, the third of that name and great grandson of Bertam became Admiral of the Fleet, from the Thames mouth southwards, and “imploy’d by the King to prevent the landing of Queen Isabel and her son Prince Edward, and to infest the French Merchants upon the Western Coasts.” Edward was not on good terms with his wife and with good reason. In 1326 Isabella invaded with a small army. The unpopular king was deposed and later murdered.

From Criol to Kyriell

John, the son of the third Nicholas seems not to have featured prominently in the records apart from a will he left when he died in 1376. Included in the many provisions is a bequest “For a chaplain to celebrate Masses and divine service for my soul and my father and mother and ancestors in the churches of Walmere and Ostrinhanger 100 marcs.” He further bequeathed forty shillings to the poor of Walmer among other parishes (but not to Mongeham). He did leave ten shillings to the work of the church in Monyngham. However he left forty shillings each to the work of four other churches, including Walmer. His son, Nicholas, was one of the executors.By this time the family was becoming more commonly known by the Anglicised spelling Kiriell.

Walmer Church
Walmer Church

John’s grandson, William, was governor of Rochester Castle and accompanied Henry IV on his campaigns in France. He alienated Oxney Manor to one Robert Tame thus ending the Kiriell links with the manor. William died in 1413 but his brother, John, was with Henry V at Agincourt. William’s son, Thomas, was to die at the second battle of St. Albans.