Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/278

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
There was a problem when proofreading this page.


curious claim which his father had first made to the monks' hospitality on St. Cuthbert's day (4 Sept.) (cf. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 293; Letters from Northern Registers, p. 394).

Neville was a man of energy, and King Edward kept him constantly employed. Scottish relations were then very critical, and Neville and Lord Percy, the only magnate of the north country whose power equalled his own, spent most of their time on the northern border. In 1334 they were made joint wardens of the marches, and were frequently entrusted with important negotiations. Neville was also governor of the castle of Bamborough, and warden of all the forests north of the Trent (Dugdale, i. 294; Swallow, p. 14; Fœdera, vols. iv.–v.). The Lanercost chronicler (p. 293) insinuates that he and Percy did less than their duty during the Scottish invasion of 1337. Neville took part in the subsequent siege of Dunbar (ib. p. 295). It was only at rare intervals that he could be spared from the north. Froissart is no doubt in error in bringing him to the siege of Tournay in 1340, but the truce with Scotland at the close of 1342 permitted his services to be used in the peace negotiations with France promoted by Pope Clement VI in the following year (Froissart, iii. 312, ed. Lettenhove; cf. Fœdera, v. 213; Dugdale). When the king was badly in want of money (1338), Neville advanced him wool from his Yorkshire estates, and in return for this and other services was granted various privileges. In October 1333 he was given the custody of the temporalities of the bishopric of Durham during its vacancy, and twelve years later the wardship of two-thirds of the lands of Bishop Kellawe, who had died in 1316 (Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense, iv. 175, 340).

When David Bruce invaded England in 1346, Ralph and his eldest son, John, joined William de la Zouch, archbishop of York, at Richmond on 14 Oct., and, marching northwards by Barnard Castle and Auckland, shared three days later in the victory at the Red Hills to the west of Durham, near an old cross already, it would seem, known as Neville's Cross. This success saved the city of Durham, and made David Bruce a captive. Neville fought in the van, and the Lanercost writer now praises him as ‘vir verax et validus, audax et astutus et multum metuendus’ (Chron. de Lanercost, pp. 347, 350; Galfrid le Baker, p. 87). A sword is still shown at Brancepeth Castle which is averred to be that used by Ralph at Neville's Cross or Durham, as the battle was at first often called (Swallow, pp. 16–17). With Gilbert Umfreville, earl of Angus, he pursued the flying Scots across the border, took Roxburgh on terms, and harried the southern counties of Scotland (Chron. de Lanercost, p. 352). Tradition represents that he erected Neville's Cross on the Brancepeth road, half a mile out of Durham, in commemoration of the victory. The old cross was soon altered or entirely replaced by a more splendid one, which was destroyed in 1589, after the fall of the elder branch of Neville, and only the stump now remains; but a detailed description of it was printed in 1674 from an old Durham Roll by Davies in his ‘Rites and Monuments’ (Swallow, p. 16). The king rewarded Neville's services with a grant of 100l. and a license to endow two priests in the church of Sheriff-Hutton to pray for the souls of himself and his family (Dugdale). Towards the end of his life (1364) he endowed three priests in the hospital founded by his family at Well, near Bedale, not far from Middleham, for the same object (ib.)

The imprisonment of David Bruce made the Scots much less dangerous to England; but there was still plenty of work on the borders, and the rest of Neville's life was almost entirely spent there as warden of the marches, peace commissioner, and for a time (1355) governor of Berwick. The protracted negotiations for the liberation of David Bruce also occupied him (ib.) Froissart mentions one or two visits to France, but with the exception of that of 1359, when he accompanied the king into Champagne, these are a little doubtful (ib.; Froissart, v. 365, vi. 221, 224, ed. Lettenhove). He died on 5 Aug. 1367, and, having presented a very rich vestment to St. Cuthbert, was allowed to be buried in the south aisle of Durham Cathedral, being the first layman to whom that favour was granted (Wills and Inventories, Surtees Soc., i. 26). The body was ‘brought to the churchyard in a chariot drawn by seven horses, and then carried upon the shoulders of knights into the church.’ His tomb, terribly mutilated by the Scottish prisoners confined in the cathedral in 1650, still stands in the second bay from the transept.

Neville greatly increased the prestige of his family, and his descendants were very prosperous. He married Alice, daughter of Sir Hugh Audley, who, surviving him, married Ralph, baron of Greystock (d. 1417), in Cumberland, and, dying in 1374, was buried by the side of her first husband. They had five sons: (1) John, fifth baron Neville [q. v.]; (2) Robert, like his elder brother, a distinguished soldier in the French wars (Froissart, ed. Lettenhove, xxii. 289); (3) Ralph, the founder of the family of the Nevilles of Thornton Bridge, on the Swale, near Borough-