A History of Cawthorne/The De Laci Family, Chief Lords of Cawthorne
THE DE LACI FAMILY, CHIEF LORDS OF CAWTHORNE.
The Ilbert de Laci, to whom the Conqueror gave the vast estates which were afterwards called "The Honour of Pontefract," built the Castle of Pontefract for his residence. It was completed after twelve years in 1080, and he is said to have called the name of his castle Pontfrete, when he laid its foundation, because its situation reminded him of his birthplace of that name in Normandy. On his death, in 1090, he was succeeded by his son Robert, who was the founder of the Cluniac Priory of St. John at Pontefract, which was founded in the year of his father's death, and consecrated by Roger, Archbishop of York, in 1159.
Two charters of this Robert de Laci are given in the Monasticon Anglicanum as from the Chartulary of Pontefract then in the possession of Thomas Widrington (Ex cartulario de Pontefracto, fol. 1., penes Thomam Widrington militem an. 1652). This Thomas wasthe son of the Roger Widrington who married a Rosamond Wentworth, of Woolley, in that century; hence the present possession of this Chartulary—the parchment Book of the Religious Foundation's Charters—by Godfrey Wentworth, Esq., of Woolley.
In the first charter, Robert de Laci gives to this Religious House he has built on his manor of Kyrkebi (i.e. Pontefract) the whole of his estate at Dodworth (Doddewrthe), along with many other estates; also, "the Church of Silkeston, of the gift of Swein the son of Ailric, with the chapels and all things belonging thereto" ("eccelsiam de Sylkeston ex dono Suani filii Aldrici, cum capellis et omnibus ad eandem pertinentibus.")
In the second charter, Robert confirms his former grant, and enlarges and explains it. He describes his gift of his estate at Dodworth as being made for the maintenance of the monks' borses and those of their friends. "Ad prebendandos equos suos et hospitum suorum quoddam dominium meum scilicet Doddewrthe, quod situm est inter Silkeston et Bernesle." He describes its position with great minuteness: its being bounded towards Silkeston by the Wolf-Pit, by the valley beyond Huggeside (Hugsett), and by the middle of Silkeston Beck as far as opposite Barneby, which water-course is the boundary between Barneby and Dodworth.
"I have granted and confirmed moreover to the said monks, of the gift of Swein the son of Ailric, the Church of Silkstone with six Oxgangs of land in the same village, with all things belonging thereto, and the Chapel of Cawthorne, and the other chapels, lands, and tithes belonging to the Church or Chapel aforesaid."
"Concesi autem et confirmavi eisdem monachis meis ex dono Suani filii Ailrici ecclesiam de Silkeston, cum sex bovatis terræ in "eadem villa, cum pertinentus suis, et capellam de Calthorn, et cæteras capellas et terras et decimas prædictæ ecclesiæ vel prædictæ capellæ pertinentes."
Hunter regards this second Charter with some suspicion, as having in the reign of Henry I. the same witnesses as the earlier one of the time of William II.
Probably with a view to preserving the family's estates in Normandy as well as in England, Robert de Laci espoused what Whittaker calls "the better cause" of Robert Curthose against the claims to the Crown of England of the Conqueror's younger son Henry I. In the first year of his reign, therefore, Henry dispossessed him of all his large estates, bestowed his castle and lands upon Hugh de la Val, and banished Robert and his son Ilbert de Laci from the Kingdom.
A Charter of Hugh de La Val is given in the Monasticon in which he confirms to the Monastery of Pontefract all that Robert do Laci had granted. "Confirmo quicquid Rodbertus de Laceio tempore Regis Willielmi secundi et ego postmodum tempore Regis Henrici donavi." Amongst the numerous Churches mentioned is that of Silkston and the Church of Cawthorne. "* * et in Silkeston VI bovatas terræ de dono Ailsi et ecclesiam de Silkeston cum hiis quæ ad illam pertinent de dono Swaini filii Ailrici et iterum de dono ipsius ecclesiam de Caltorna cum duabus partibus decimarum totius dominii sui."
This Charter is confirmed by King Henry: "Ego Henricus Rex Angliæ signo sanctæ x crucis confirmo."
After a few years' exile, Robert was allowed to return, and all his estates and honours were restored to him. He assisted in the roof the Priory of St. Oswald at Nostell, and confirmed many of the grants of Churches to that Priory which de la Val had made in his absence, including those of South Kirkby, Featherstone, Huddersfield, Rothwell, and Kirkthorpe.
In the Dodsworth MSS, Vol.II. 52, we read, "Iste Robertus de Laci de Pontefracto fundabat prioratum Canonicorum Regularium Sci Oswaldi apud Nostla, non procul a castello suo de Pontefracto * * * fundabat etiam prioratum Sci Johannis Apostoli et Evangelisticæ in Domino suo de Kirkeby postea vocata de Pontefracto."
He gives too (f. 119) "Carta Roberti de Lacy de situ Prioratus S. Oswaldi de Nostell ." (Nostell—North Stall).
Robert died in the latter part of Henry I., leaving two sons, lbert and Henry, the latter of whom became the founder of Kirkstall Abbey, after he had succeeded to his father's estate on the death of his elder brother Ilbert without issue.
This second Ilbert greatly distinguished himself by his faithfulness to King Stephen against Matilda's claims, and by his conspicuous valour in the Battle of the Standard, fought at Cowton Moor near Northallerton (1138), where the barons and freemen of the North gathered round Archbishop Thurston, and completely routed their Scottish enemies.
Henry de Laci, Ilbert's brother and successor, died in the latter part of Henry II., being succeeded by his son Robert, one of the barons who attended the coronation of Richard I. This Robert died in 1193, leaving no child. He is spoken of by Hunter (Deanery of Doncaster, Vol.II., p. 202, 1831) as "the last of the original line of Laci, and, as far as it appears, the last remaining descendant, male or female, of Ilbert de Laci, the original grantee" of the Conqueror.
Following Dugdale and the whole body of later genealogists, Hunter makes the de Laci estates go to Henry's half-sister Albreda de Lizours, the daughter of his mother by her second husband Robert de Lizours, lord of Sprotborough. This descent is taken from a historical fragment, written not earlier than Henry VI., called "Historia Laceiorum," which is given in the Monasticon.
In his preface, when editing the Pipe Rolls in 1833, (Magnus Rotulus Pipæ, 31 Henry I.) Hunter is able to correct this strange and unexampled manner of descent, and to show, with almost certainty, that this Albreda to whom the estates descended was the lineal heiress of the family, being the cousin of their last possessor, and granddaughter of the first Robert de Laci.
The connection is thus given in Glover's Visitation of Yorkshire, 1584-5 (Surtees Society, Volume 63*): "Albreda de Laci, sister and ultimately heir of Ilbert de Laci (vide fine 5 King Richard), married Robert de Lizours: had daughter Albreda de Lizours, dau. and heir (vide fine 5 King Richard), married Sir Wm. Fitz-Godric, 1st husband, a quo Earl Fitzwilliam: 2nd husband, Richard Fitz-Eustace, only son inherited the honours of his mother and became 5th Baron of Halton and Constable of Chester. He paid 25 marks for his marriage (Pipe Roll 31 Henry I.): ob. 1178."
In this Pipe Roll of the King's Exchequer Court of 1131, Robert de Lizouis is given as paying a fine of £8 6s. 8d.} to the Crown for being allowed to marry the sister and heir of Ilbert de Laci. "Robertus de Lusoriis reddit compotum de viii li. vi s. viii d., ut ducat in uxorem sororem Ilberti de Laci. In thesauro iiii li., et debet iiii li vi s. viii d." (Dodsw. MSS., III., 78.)
Their daughter Albreda was also heiress of her father's lordship of Sprotborough. As her first husband she married Fitz-Eustace, Baron Halton in the Earldom of Chester, and hereditary Constable of Chester, who died before 1178. By this husband she had a son John, who died (1190) before his mother, leaving a son Roger heir both to the de Laci and Fitz-Eustace estates. This Albreda's second husband was William Fitz-Godric, lord of Elmley, from whom is descended the noble family of Fitzwilliam, and also that of Sir Jos. Copley, of Sprotborough. Albreda's grandson Roger was living at the time of Robert de Laci's death in 1193, and there is record of a fine levied in the King's Court at Winchester, on April 25th, 5 Richard 1. (1194), by which Albreda makes her grandson Roger heir to all the de Laci estates, whilst he at the same time quits claim to her of all the lands of her father, Robert de Lizours.
This Roger de Lizours now assumed the name of de Laci, and became the founder of the second de Laci family, chief lords of Cawthorne, having their residence at the great fortress and place of Pontefract. When he died, in 1211, he left a son John de Laci, Count of Chester, who married Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Robert de Quincy, son of Saher, Earl of Winchester. This Robert had married Hawys, fourth sister and co-heiress of Ranulph Blondeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln. Immediately on this Earl of Chester's death, the Countess Hawys transferred the Earldom of Lincoln to her son-in-law John de Laci, an arrangement no doubt contemplated by his uncle, the late earl, and one which was completed and confirmed by Royal Charter, Nov. 23rd, 1232 (17 Henry III.)
John and Margaret (1230) had a son Edmund de Laci, who, as he died (1258) in the lifetime of his mother, in whom the title vested, never assumed the Earldom of Lincoln, though he was from 1240 to 1258 lord of the Honour of Pontefract. Edmund left a son Henry, "the last and greatest man of all his line." "1251: Natus est Henricus de Lacy 3 idus Januarii." (MSS. Cotton; Vesp. D. xviii. f.) He was the confidential servant and friend of Edward I., and on the death of his grandmother he became Earl of Lincoln, in 1278.
This Henry, whose name plays a conspicuous part in the history of his time—that "period of national glory," as Hunter calls it, "the "reign of Edward I."—was lord of this Honour of Pontefract for fifty-two years. He died Feb. 5, 1310, and was buried in St. Paul's; of his two sons and two daughters, his daughter Alice alone survived him. In 1294, this daughter and heiress was contracted in marriage, when only nine years old, to Thomas Plantagenet then Earl of Leicester, elder son of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, brother of Edward I., and younger son of Henry III.
Henry de Laci, this last male heir, at that time (1294) surrendered all his lands to King Edward I., who, at the same time, re-granted them to Henry for his life, and after his decease to Thomas Plantagenet and Alice his wife, and their heirs, annexing to this grant the extraordinary provision, that, in default of such heirs, the estates should go to Edmund, the father of Earl Thomas, and to his heirs for ever.
Thomas Earl of Lancaster is given as the lord of this Wapentake of Staincross in the "Nomina Villarum" of 9 Edward II., being the returns made by the Sheriffs (shire-reeves) of the hundreds, wapentakes, &c., in the several bailiwicks. The entry is, "Libertas de Osgotcrosse." "Thomas Comes Lancastriæ dominus est libertatis de Osgotcrosse," Staincross being included in the Wapentake of Osgoldcross. Cawthorne in this Return is given as "Salthorn." No mention is made of either Staincross or Osgoldcross in the earlier Survey known as "Kirkeby's Inquest," 13 Edward I., 1284-5, on account, most probably, of all the land being held by one person.
On the death of Henry de Laci, Thomas added the Earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury to the three he already held, those of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby. There is no need to speak here of the part he played during the reign of Edward II., when he could treat with his royal cousin on equal terms. At the Battle of Boroughbridge, however, Lancaster and his forces were defeated, and the earl himself obliged to surrender. On March 22, 1322, he was tried by the king's judges, in presence of the hostile earls, in his own castle at Pontefract, was condemned as a traitor, and was at once beheaded. Strangely enough, the people declared this "martyr of Pontefract" worthy of being called St. Thomas; they declared that miracles were wrought at his tomb, and they used his name as a watchword of liberty!
All his immense estates at once passed into the hands of the crown.
During the lifetime of her husband, Alice, Countess of Lancaster, was forcibly carried off from her husband's castle of Pontefract. The Earl Warenne, of Conisborough, was accused, and the king himself suspected of conniving at this abduction. She was carried to Earl Warenne's castle at Reigate. This gave rise to a private war between the two powerful houses of Lancaster and Warenne, and is said to have been the historical foundation of an old popular local drama called "Revenge upon Revenge," the last scene of which, in a manuscript copy of it, is, according to Hunter, laid "at Cannon Hall, nigh Cawthorne."
On March 7, 1327, the sentence of attainder against the late Earl Thomas of Lancaster was reversed, and his brother Henry was allowed to succeed to his honours and estates, which he held till his death in 1345, when he was succeeded by his son Henry. This Henry was created Duke of Lancaster by the king's special charter, 6 March, 1351, the first duke created, except the Black Prince, since the Norman Conquest. The charter gave him power to hold a Chancery in the county of Lancaster, and to enjoy the liberties of a County Palatine.
When he died of the great pestilence, March 24, 1361, he left only two daughters, the younger of whom, Blanche, was married to John of Gaunt (Ghent), Earl of Richmond, fourth son of Edward III., to whom she brought her father's estates of the Manor of Pontefract and its Honour. On the elder sister dying without issue, she brought her husband all the other estates, and he was advanced to the title of Duke of Lancaster. On his death in Feb. 1399, his estates and honours descended to his son Henry, called Henry Bolingbroke from being born (1366) at Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire. By deposing his unfortunate cousin Richard II., Henry assumed the crown in 1399 as Henry IV., "with the concurrence," Hallam observes, "of Lords, Commons, and people."
From that time to the present, the Honour of Pontefract has vested in the Crown, though Henry was too prudent to suffer it to be united to it, "lest," as Blackstone says, "if he lost one, he should lose the other also." He knew he had the Duchy of Lancaster by sure and indefeasible title, but that his title to the crown was not so assured: for that, after the decease of Richard II., the right of the crown was in the heir of Lionel Duke of Clarence, second son of Edward III., whilst John of Gaunt, Henry's father, was but the fourth son. He procured an Act of Parliament, therefore, ordaining that the duchy and all his hereditary estates should remain to him and his heirs, and should descend, be administered, and governed, in like manner as if he had never attained the regal dignity.
The duchy and estates thus descended to his son and grandson, Henry V. and Henry VI. On the attainder of Henry VI. in 1 Edward IV., the duchy was declared in Parliament to have become forfeited to the crown, and an Act was passed incorporating the duchy, and continuing the County Palatine, making it parcel of the duchy, and vesting the whole in King Edward and his heirs, Kings of England, for ever, but under separate guiding and governance from the other inheritances of the crown.
The Honour of Pontefract has ever since this time been kept as a separate crown estate, managed by its own officers, as part of the Duchy of Lancaster.
The origin is thus shown of that connection between Cawthorne as belonging to the Honour of Pontefract and the Duchy of Lancaster which has continuously existed to the present day.
By a circular dated so recently as Feb. 8th, 1881, the Chancellor of the Duchy has now given notice to the Constable of Cawthorne, that the yearly summons to attend the ancient Court Leet of the Honour of Pontefract, held from time immemorial at Darton, will be discontinued, "it appearing to the Chancellor that recent legislation has deprived such courts of the public utility they once possessed. The court will henceforth only be held to appoint such Leet officer on a proper requisition from any township desiring it."
Long after the disappearance of the substance, there has now disappeared the shadow also of that ancient Court of Record, granted by royal charter to the Lord of the Wapentake, which was held to view the "frank pledges," that is, the freemen within the liberty, who, according to the institution of Alfred the Great, were all mutually pledges for each other's good behaviour. It was the court, too, to which all the king's subjects were summoned as they came to years of discretion and strength to take the oath of allegiance, and at which all the crimes within the liberty were presented by jury. "De omnibus quidem cognoscit, non tamen de omnibus judicat." Everything affecting the public weal and the good government of the district came within its cognisance, "from common nuisances," as Blackstone says, "and other material offences against the king's peace and public trade, down to eavesdropping, waifs, (i.e. goods stolen and waived or thrown away by the thief through fear), and irregularities in public commons."
With the abolition of the office of constable, the representative of the ancient office of headborough of Alfred's time, has also now ceased the customary payment of 8s. 4d., "outhorn money," from the township, and the court's appointment of a township "Pinder," to "pen" or impound straying and trespassing cattle, and of the still more important "By-law man," who was to enforce whatever orders the court by common consent might make for its lordship "by" or beyond the public law, "but not contrary to it."
The only historical connection which now remains between Cawthorne and the Duchy of Lancaster is the appointment of the Master of Cawthorne School by its chancellor, and the more material connection of its small annual endowment of £5 4s. which its master still receives from the Duchy.
To show that there was some more substantial connection two hundred years ago between a Lord of the Manor of Cawthorne and the Duchy than exists at present, the following case stated for counsel's opinion may be given: "Sir Matthew Wentworth succeeded his uncle Sir Thomas, and being seized of the Manor of Cawthorne and of a capital messuage called Cawthorne Hall. There had all along been paid by its owners or occupiers a Free Rent of four shillings per annum to the Honour of Pontefract: Mr. Wood, chiefe Bayliff under Katherine, Queen Dowager of Charles II., for the said Honour, demands beside the said rent of four shillings the yearly sum of three shillings and fourpence pro tribus in tres. * * *. It doth not appear that Sir Thomas Wentworth ever paid more than the four shillings, nor any time during the last thirty years, during all which time the owners of Cawthorne Hall have constantly appeared at the Queen's Court Baron for the said Honour, as often as they have been summoned. It is thought that the said 3s. 4d. was formerly made to excuse attending the Three Weeks Court. Mr. Wood hath distrained upon the tenant of Cawthorne Hall for the said 3s. 4d. pro tribus in tres.
"Qu: Whether Mr. Wood can justifie his distress."