William, 1st Earl


William, 1st EarlSir William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, Guillaume de Warenne – was the son of Rodolf de Warenne [1030-1074].

He was a Norman from Varennes, near Dieppe, who came across in 1066 and fought valiantly at Hastings. He was created Earl of Surrey with castles at Lewes in Sussex, at Reigate in Surrey, and at Castle Acre in Norfolk, and with land in 16 other counties.

He is said to have been the richest man of his millennium, being worth £57 billion in today's value.

In 1054, he was knighted at the Battle of Mortimer.

Around 1077, he married Gundrada of Flanders in Normandy.


  1. William

The Earl and his wife planned to go on pilgrimage to Rome, but wars between the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor meant that they could not go beyond France. During their stay in France, the couple stayed at the Abbey of Cluny, near the Swiss border. On the notably turbulent return journey across the Channel, the Earl vowed to found an abbey if he and his wife were delivered safely. The journey was completed safely and in 1077, he invited the monks of Cluny to establish the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras, Lewes, which was later increased by the gift of several Yorkshire churches, including Halifax Parish Church.

Around 1088, he supported William Rufus when other Norman lords revolted against the new king, and for this he was granted the Earldom of Surrey and received the Manor of Wakefield which had earlier belonged to Edward the Confessor. He had his seat of the Manor of Wakefield on the left bank of the Calder and a motte and a timber bailey were built – see Sandal Castle.

He was fatally wounded by an arrow in the leg at the Siege of Pevensey Castle and died at Lewes Castle on 24th June 1088. He was buried at the Priory of Lewes. His remains were reinterred at Southover in 1845

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 02:53 / 22nd February 2023 / 4053

Page Ref: MMW1702

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