There are two places in the traditional county of Lancashire named Melling, although one is now in Merseyside for administrative purposes. Both were once owned by the Harrington family of Hornby Castle and when the Harrington lands were split between Anne and Elizabeth Harrington after the deaths of their father and grandfather at Wakefield, Melling in Lonsdale became the property of Anne, and Melling in West Lancashire passed to Elizabeth.
My new novel, By Loyalty Bound, traces the story of the Harringtons of Hornby Castle and the role of King Richard III in their battle for their inheritance. I only mention one Melling in the story as I thought it might be confusing to introduce two places with the same name. But because I know many readers of historical fiction are interested in the true history that forms the background to the stories I thought I would say more about Melling and Melling here on my blog.
Melling in Lonsdale
This Melling is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as one of three manors belonging to Ulf, along with Hornby and Wennington. It was the seat of Ulf’s lordship, but when the lands were taken into the possession of William the Conqueror he granted them to the Montbegon family who built a castle at Hornby, making Melling part of the honour of Hornby.
In 1226 it passed to Henry de Monewdon and he granted it to Hubert de Burgh,, Earl of Kent, and Margaret his wife in 1229. The agreement included the manor of Hornby, with the castle, honour and soke, the advowson of the priory, the manor of Melling and the advowson of the church with the lands of Wray, Wrayton, Cantsfield, Wennington, Old Wennington, Tunstall, Arkholme and Farleton. The service due was half a knight’s fee.
The lands later passed by marriage into the Lungvillier family and then into the Nevill family when Margaret Lungvillier married Geoffrey Neville, the second son of Geoffrey Nevill of Raby. The Nevills held the land for several generations and when Margaret Nevill married Sir William Harrington the lands passed to them after the death of her niece and were held by the Harringtons until William’s son, Thomas, and his grandson, John, were both killed at Wakefield in 1460, fighting for the Duke of York during what has come to be known as the Wars of the Roses. Because Thomas died shortly before his son John the lands passed to John Harrington’s two young daughters – Anne aged five and Elizabeth aged four. It was Anne, the elder daughter, who inherited the honour of Hornby and along with it, Melling in Lonsdale. The wardship of the girls was given by the king, Edward IV, to Lord Thomas Stanley who arranged the marriage of Anne to his son Edward who later became Lord Monteagle. I suppose it was assumed that Anne’s children would eventually inherit, but she died without any legitimate heirs and, despite petitions from members of the Harrington family, the lands went to Thomas Stanley, the son of Edward Stanley by his second wife, Elizabeth Vaughn.
Today, Melling in Lonsdale is a small village in a rural community consisting of stone
cottages clustered around the church of St Wilfrid, which is a Grade I listed building and dates from the 1300s. Most of the present church dates from the late 15th century. There is a chapel, now known as the Morley Chapel, created as a chantry chapel by John Morley who fought at Agincourt in 1415. It was originally dedicated to St Katherine.
It is thought that Thomas Stanley, 2nd Lord Monteagle may be buried in the church. There is no record of burials before 1619, but he left instructions in his will that he should be buried in the chancel. I don’t know if Anne Harrington was buried here. It is possible.
Melling in Merseyside
In 1066, this Melling was held by Godeve. It was rated at two ploughlands and valued at ten shillings. A hundred years later Siward de Melling was a tenant of the king. The land passed to Siward’s sons, Thomas and Henry, and several grants by Henry de Melling are recorded in the Cockersand chartulary. Following them, the records of ownership are scanty and confused, but the important record for tracing the land to the Harringtons is the marriage of Isabel, the daughter of Robert de Byron, to Robert de Nevill of Hornby. The Nevill share of Melling descended to the Harringtons along with the honour of Hornby and in the division of Sir John Harrington’s estates, this Melling went to Elizabeth Harrington, the younger of the two sisters. She married John Stanley, the son and heir of John Stanley of Weaver in Cheshire, who was brother of Lord Thomas Stanley. They had three daughters and the eldest, Jane, brought Melling to Sir Thomas Halsall. They had a son, Henry, and after his death an inquisition found that Jane had held the manor of Melling and ten messuages, and 200 acres of land in Melling and Liverpool. The manor was held of the queen by knight’s service and was worth £4.
Henry had no legitimate heirs so Melling passed by marriage into the Hesketh family. There is an intriguing story that links the Heskeths with the Stanleys and it forms part of another novel that I’ve written so I’ll save it for now and tell you more another day.
Today, the area is mostly rural and consists of the church, a pub and a scattering of dwellings. The church is dedicated to St Thomas and the Holy Rood, but the present building is an 18th century replacement for the medieval chapel that Elizabeth Harrington would have known.
The site of the sundial in the foreground is in the area where the medieval chapel once stood.