HUGH DE PORT
"Cil de Port," alluded to by Wace (Rom. de Rou, l. 13,613), may have been either Hugh or Hubert de Port, a commune in the Bessin, near Bayeux, for both are reported to have been in the battle, but I have specially named Hugh, as, from his share of the spoil, it is evident he must have been the most prominent in the fight for it, "slaying many English that day." At the time of the survey he held fifty-five manors in Hampshire of the King, one of which was Basing, the head of his barony; likewise twelve more of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (in whose company most likely he came); one in Dorsetshire, and two in Cambridgeshire; in all seventy lordships.
We hear nothing more about him till the ninth of Rufus (1096), in which year he gave to the monks of Gloucester his lordship of Littletone, in Northamptonshire, a subsequent acquisition, probably by marriage, and assuming the monastic habit at Winchester, ended his days there, leaving, by an unnamed wife, Henry, his son and heir, who founded the Priory of Shirebourn, near Basing.
A Gilbert as well as a Hubert de Port appears as witness to various charters from 1080 to 1082.
Adam de Port, grandson of the Henry above mentioned, married Mabel de Aurevalle, daughter and heir of Muriel de St. John, whose grandfather, William de St. John, is stated to have been a companion of the Conqueror, which is possibly true; but he is also described as the "Grand Master of Artillery" -- a title which would mislead a reader who was not sufficiently an antiquary to know that Artillaria, was a term in use long before the invention of cannon, and signified munitions of war in general, but more especially the machines constructed for the purpose of casting heavy stones and other missiles, movable towers for aassaulting a castle, battering rams, &c. It would be interesting to discover what authority there is for this family tradition. In the Bayeux Tapestry we see men bearing body armour and lances to the ships, but no catapults, mangonels, or balistæ; nor does Wace or any other author speak of such engines being conveyed on board the fleet to England; but in the wider sense of the word, as may be seen by reference to Ducange, William de St. John might have been Magister Artillariæ, having the care of all the military stores, armour, and weapons included.
The son of Adam de Port and Mabel de Aurevalle assumed the name of St. John as representative of his mother's family; and from his great-grandson John, Lord St. John of Basing, descended the Marquises of Winchester, the Dukes of Bolton, the Barons St. John of Bletshoe, the Viscounts Grandison, the Earls of Jersey, and the Earls and Viscounts Bolingbroke.
"Awake, my St. John, leave all minor things
To low ambition and the pride of kings."
Pope has done more to immortalize the name of St. John than the Grand Master of the Artillery of William the Conqueror.
Added to this site through the courtesy of Fred L. Curry, who provided a photocopy of the section.