How long Robert de Dunolm held the benefice I know not, but the next parson I meet with is the famous
John Maunsell or Mansel, to whom the town of Wigan is indebted for its first charter of freedom. This remarkable man was distinguished rather as a soldier, diplomatist, financier, and statesman than as an ecclesiastic; and but little of his time could have been passed at Wigan. He is said to have been the descendant of Philip Maunsell, who accompanied the Conqueror to England, and he was probably one of that family, but in certain pleadings in quo waranto, taken in 1279, some years after his death, with respect to lands which he had held at Wappeham in Sussex, it was contended that he was an illegitimate son. It is probable that he was the son of a priest, for his sister Clarissa, the wife of Sir Geoffrey de Childerwick, is described by a contemporary chronicler as the daughter of a country priest, and this would account for the imputation of illegitimacy, though the question of the legitimacy of the sons of the clergy in England, and their right to inherit property, had not then been fully determined.
From an inquisition taken after his death concerning certain houses in London, which were claimed by his cousin Amabilla de Rypun, the jury seem to have considered the point a doubtful one, but in the case of the estate at Wappeham the question which arose was not so much as to his legitimacy as to whether he had died seized of it or given it away before his death to the Prior and Convent of Tortynton. It was contended on the part of the Crown that John Maunsell had died seized of it, and that he was a bastard, wherefore the land should revert to the Crown because he had no legitimate heir. The jury gave no decision as to his bastardy, but found a verdict in favour of the Prior and Convent on the ground that the gift had been made to
- Placita de quo waranto, p. 749.
- Calendarium Genealogicum vol. i. p. 118.