Ludlow Castle

Castle Keep Ludlow
Ludlow Castle

I’ve been researching the de Lacy family for a while now, although my main interest has been the descendants of Ilbert de Lacy. But a recent visit to Shropshire meant that I could visit Ludlow Castle which was one of the main possessions of his brother, Walter de Lacy.

The deep well is now covered for safety.

Walter de Lacy was given lands in Herefordshire. Who gifted the lands to him is subject to debate, but he received them either by direct grant from King William or from  William Fitz Osbern, with whom he appears to have fought during the Conquest. His main residence was at Weobley and the lands he owned in this area became the honour of Weobley.  The lands he received around the south of Shropshire appear to have been given to him later by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. These lands included Ludlow and the castle was the administrative centre. It occupies a defensive position, against the Welsh, on high ground between the Rivers Teme and Corve. It was built from locally quarried stone and supplied with water from a deep well in the inner bailey that was sunk to the level of the River Teme.

The Keep

Although I’ve seen lots of photos of Ludlow, my recent visit was the first time I have actually been there. It is better preserved than Pontefract Castle and from the oldest buildings in the inner bailey to the later additions there is a lot to see.

The oldest parts of the castle were probably built around 1075. Unlike the castle at Weobley, where only a mound now remains, Ludlow Castle thrived in the following years. It was further developed by Walter’s sons – Roger and Hugh. Roger rebelled against William II (William Rufus) and was dispossessed and sent into exile, but his younger brother was allowed to inherit the de Lacy lands, although Ludlow Castle was confiscated from Hugh by Henry II to curb his power in the Marches. Further troubles followed during the reign of King John and after the death of Hugh’s son, another Walter, the lands passed to his daughters, Maud and Margery, whose deaths ended the direct line of this branch of the de Lacy family.

The steps (not original) to the Great Hall

On the death of Maud in 1304, the castle passed into the ownership of her second husband, Geoffrey de Geneville, who undertook the rebuilding if the inner bailey and the Great Hall.

Round Chapel Ludlow Castle
The chapel of St Mary Magdalene.

Geoffrey’s eldest granddaughter Joan married Roger Mortimer in 1301 and Ludlow Castle passed to his ownership. If you’ve read my novel The Circle of Fortune, you’ll already know something about him. It was here, at Ludlow Castle, that he built a chapel dedicated to St Peter in the outer bailey, to fulfil his vow that he would honour the saint on whose day he escaped from the Tower of London.

In 1425, Ludlow Castle was inherited by Richard, Duke of York and became an important site during the Wars of the Roses. When Richard’s son, Edward became king in 1461, Ludlow Castle became part of the royal estates. He made it the seat of the newly created Council in the Marches of Wales and it became the home of his young sons Prince Edward and Prince Richard. When news reached Ludlow of the unexpected death of Edward IV, the new king and his household set out for London to take possession of the throne. They had arranged to meet the young king’s uncle, Richard, at Stony Stratford so that he could ride into London with them, but the story is complex, depending whose opinion you believe, and the eventual result was that Edward V was never crowned and his uncle became Richard III. No one is sure what happened to Edward and  Richard, who have become known as the Princes in the Tower.

This is the tower where Prince Arthur died.

Richard III was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth just three years later and the first born son of the victor, Henry VII, was named Arthur. With his Welsh roots, Henry Tudor must have wanted to fulfil the legend of the ‘once and future king’. But it was not to be. Henry VII granted Ludlow Castle to Arthur as a residence, but shortly after his marriage to Katharine of Aragon, Arthur was taken ill at Ludlow and died, leaving his younger brother Henry to marry his widow and take his place on the throne as Henry VIII.

In later years Mary Tudor, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, lived at Ludlow Castle for a time, overseeing the Council of the Marches. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Sir Henry Sidney was appointed President of the Council and  many repairs and additions were made, including the porter’s lodge and prison in the outer bailey. He also built family apartments between the Great Hall and Mortimer’s Tower – and it is his coat of arms that you can see above the gatehouse.


The future Charles I was declared Prince of Wales in the castle in 1616 and during the Civil War, Ludlow and the surrounding area supported the Royalists, but after a siege the castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarian Army in 1646. The castle became abandoned in the years that followed, with everything of value taken away. It fell into disrepair and in 1704 there was a proposal by William Gower to demolish it and create a residential square on the site. Despite plans by various people over the years to restore the castle and turn it into a private home it seems that the expense involved was always too much and the ruins became a tourist attraction. Ludlow Castle is now owned by the Earl of Powis and attracts many visitors to both the remains and to the many events held in the grounds.

The outer bailey is used for various events throughout the year.

As I walked around on a beautiful sunny day, I reflected on how often Ludlow Castle features in the novels I’ve written. Not as a major setting, but often there in the background. I’m glad I managed to visit it, at last and it’s reminded me that I ought to do more research into this branch of the de Lacy family.












Priory or Friary – Who Lies Where?

The histories of various well-known people, including Richard, Duke of York and Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, record that they were buried at Pontefract. However it takes a little more digging to discover exactly where, because Pontefract had both a priory and a friary and even the information displayed on the signage board at the site of St John’s Priory seems to be incorrect when compared with historical records.

P1030922 The Cluniac Priory of St John is the older of the two monastic establishments. There are no remains above ground but the site of the priory is preserved and the outlines of the buildings can clearly be seen on images from Google Earth. The site can be found on Box Lane, close to Pontefract Castle.

The Priory of St John was founded by Robert (1) de Lacy in the reign of William Rufus, although the exact date is unknown. Norman lords were keen founders of ecclesiastical institutions and the foundation of St John’s near to the castle at Pontefract was no doubt an attempt to ease the passage of the de Lacys to heaven. The priory was founded ‘for the good estate of the founder, and the souls of William I, the founder’s parents – Ilbert and Hawise – and all his ancestors and heirs’.

The priory was a daughter house of La Charité-sur-Loire. The first monks came from thereP1030926 and were housed in what later became St Nicholas’ Hospital. The appointment of the prior was by the mother house in France and a yearly payment was sent from Pontefract, although this was confiscated in the reign of Edward III.

It’s recorded in the Historia Laceiorum, a 15th century genealogy of the de Lacy family, that several members of the de Lacy family lie here. Robert’s parents, Ilbert and Hawise are said to be buried at the right and left of the altar. Robert’s son Ilbert is recorded as being buried between the tomb of his mother, Matilda, and the wall at the altar of St Benedict, and the founder himself is recorded as being buried at the right hand corner of the altar of St Benedict, within the priory church. Most historians dismiss this information and record that the date of death and place of burial of both Ilbert de Lacy and Robert de Lacy is unknown. The probable reason is that the Historia Laceiorum is a flawed document with provable errors which has led to it being widely mistrusted, but it would be reasonable to suppose that at least Robert’s wife, Matilda, and son, Ilbert, were buried here.

Another burial in the priory was that of Archbishop Thurstan. He retired here in January 1140 to fulfil a vow taken in his youth to become a monk of the Cluniac order. He died on 5th February after reciting the office of the dead. ‘Whilst the rest were kneeling and praying around him he passed away to await in the Land of Silence the coming of that Day of Wrath, so terrible to all, of which he had just spoken.’ Some years later his grave was opened and his remains were found to be sweet smelling and undecayed.

It was also in St John’s Priory that Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, was buried in 1322 following his execution after the Battle of Boroughbridge where he had led a rebellion against Edward II. After he was beheaded on a nearby hill, the monks begged for his body and buried it at the right hand of the high altar. It was to this church that pilgrims, who viewed Thomas as a martyr, began to come in their thousands as stories of miracles began to spread. ‘Certain miracles which were said to be done near the place both where he suffered and where he was buried caused many to think that he was a saint. Howbeit, at length, by the king’s commandment, the church doors of the priory where he was buried were shut and closed, so that no man might be suffered to come to the tomb to bring any offering or to do any other kind of devotion to the same.’ 

P1030950The Dominican Friary of St Richard at Pontefract has also disappeared, although traces were found during the construction of the new hospital when it was discovered that it lies somewhere to the east of Friarwood Valley Gardens.

The friary was founded by Edmund de Lacy in 1256. After the death of his father, John de Lacy, Edmund became a ward of the king and was given into the care of a tutor, Richard Wych, who later became Bishop of Chichester and was made a saint after his death on 3rd April 1253. Edmund chose the town of Pontefract to establish the friary in his honour and the story of the foundation is told by a contemporary Dominican, Ralph de Bocking, in his life of Richard Wych. Edmund de Lacy, accompanied by discreet men, both religious and secular, laid the foundation stone with his own hands, saying: ‘To the honour of our Lady Mary, mother of God and Virgin, and of St Dominic, confessor, to whose brethren I assign this place, and also of St Richard, bishop and confessor, formerly my lord and dearest friend, I wishing to found a church in this place lay the first stone’. Upon these words, the stone split into three parts, as if to approve the choice of the three patron saints.

Unlike the Cluniac order, the Dominicans were an open order who went about the countryside in pairs, preaching. They were known as the Black Friars from their black habits.

When Edmund de Lacy died on 22nd July, 1257, he left his heart to be buried in the Dominican church at Pontefract. It’s probable that the church was not complete at this date and the rest of his remains were buried beside his father and grandfather at Stanlaw Abbey in Cheshire, but were later moved to Whalley Abbey when the monks transferred there.

A list of burials at St Richard’s Friary was compiled by John Wriothesley, Garter King-of-Arms, who died in 1504. Presumably taken from the friary records, he records that the heart of the founder, Edmund de Lacy, is buried there. Also listed are Edmund’s wife, Alice, daughter of the Marquess de Saluzzo, their infant son John and daughter Margaret; also the heart of Alice’s husband, George de Cantlowe, and their infant son; also Agnes de Vescy, who was Alice’s sister.  He also lists the hearts of Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland; also Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury, and his son Thomas. These are the Yorkist noblemen who were killed at, or executed following, the battle of Wakefield. It is sad, however, that when I visited Pontefract, the information board that has been put up on the site of the Priory of St John claims that those who were killed at Wakefield were buried there.

The bodies of the duke of York and his son Edmund were transferred from Pontefract in 1476 when the duke’s son Edward was king. They were taken in procession to the church near to their family home at Fotheringhay.  Richard Nevill and his son Thomas were removed to Bisham Abbey.

At the reburial of Richard III earlier this year, Benedict Cumberbatch commented that P1030934having found the king under a car park, in the remains of the Greyfriars, he hoped the tomb in Leicester Cathedral would not be lost to future generations. It was a thought-provoking thing to say because I’m sure that Robert de Lacy and Edmund de Lacy never even considered that their magnificent religious foundations would one day no longer exist and that their tombs would be destroyed. It took the actions of only one man – Henry VIII. We must strive to ensure that someone in the future doesn’t destroy the history we have now and that what remains is recorded accurately and preserved.

Richard III, his mistress, and his illegitimate children

Much has been written in fiction, and in some non-fiction, about the love between King Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville. But what if it isn’t true? What if Richard’s mistress was the great love of his life?

Richard had two illegitimate children whom he acknowledged: John of Gloucester and Katherine Plantagenet. The identity of the mother or mothers of these children is a mystery. She is not named in any historical record. Historian Rosemary Horrox has suggested that her name was Katherine Haute, who received a grant from Richard in 1477 of 100 shillings per annum for life.  She was the wife of James Haute, whose mother Joan Woodville was a cousin of the queen, Elizabeth Woodville. The reason for the annuity is unknown, but the fact that Richard’s daughter was given the same name, Katherine, has led to the suggestion that she could have been the mother of his child.

Another woman who was given an annuity in March 1474 was Alice Burgh. She received £20 per annum from Richard at Pontefract for ‘certain special causes and considerations’.  It would be helpful if the reasons for these awards were not so obtuse.  But as John of Gloucester was also sometimes named as John of Pountfreit (the Latin name for Pontefract) there could be a connection, but it seems more likely that she was a nurse as Alice later received another allowance for being a nurse to Edward of Warwick, the son of the Duke of Clarence.  However it strikes me that £20 is the equivalent of 400 shillings, four times the amount given to Katherine Haute. It puts Katherine Haute’s annuity into context. Would Richard really have given her only a quarter of what he gave a nursemaid if she had been the mother of his children?

We may not know much about the mother or mothers of John and Katherine but we do know a little more about them from contemporary records.

John of Gloucester:

  • John was knighted at York by his father on the 8th September 1483 as part of the celebrations to mark the investiture of Richard’s legitimate son, Edward, as Prince of Wales.
  • A patent dated 11th March 1485 granted to ‘ our dear bastard son, John of Gloucester’ of the offices of Captain of Calais, and of the fortresses of Rysbank, Guisnes, Hammes, and Lieutenant of the Marches of Picardy for his life. The patent also describes John as having ‘liveliness of mind, activity of body, and inclination to all good customs (which) promise us, by the grace of God, great hope of his good service for the future’. It is in the initial notice of this appointment to the Captaincy of Calais that John is referred to as John de Pountfreit Bastard, giving us the clue to his birthplace. 
  • A warrant to deliver clothing to ‘the Lord Bastard’ dated two days before on 9th March 1485, almost certainly refers to John and not to Edward V as has sometimes been suggested.
  • We know that John survived his father because Henry VII made him a grant on 1st March 1486: ‘to John de Gloucester, bastard, of an annual rent of  £20 during the King’s pleasure, issuing out of the revenues of the lordship or manor of Kyngestonlacy, parcel of the duchy of Lancaster, in co. Dorset’. (Those of you who have been following my history of the de Lacy family will be delighted to note that John’s annuity came from the revenues of Kingston Lacy in Dorset which had once belonged to Henry de Lacy.)
  • George Buck claims that John was executed in 1499 around the time of the executions of Perkin Warbeck and Edward, Earl of Warwick. He says: ‘There was a base son of King Richard III made away, and secretly, having been kept long before in prison.” He quotes the Grafton Chronicle as his source, but I can’t find it so I don’t think it can be relied upon. And if John had been kept in prison would he have been granted an annuity?
  • Although John disappears from public records after 1499, it is possible that he lived on.  He may even have had children, which is an interesting concept because it would mean that Richard III may have some direct descendants still living!

Katherine Plantagenet:

  • One thing we know for sure about Katherine is that she married William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon. On 29th February, 1484 he covenanted ‘to take to wife Dame Katherine Plantagenet, daughter to the King, before Michaelmas of that year’. This covenant does not really give us a clue as to her age as marriages were often arranged for children, but it’s probable that she was in her early to late teens. Richard agreed to bear the whole cost of the marriage and undertook to settle manors, lordships, lands and tenements to a value of 1000 marks per annum on them and the ‘heirs male of their two bodies’. This was a sizeable sum and it is thought that Richard wanted to reward William Herbert for his support.
  • Lands to the value of 600 marks were given to the couple on the day of their marriage. The remainder of the lands, worth 400 marks, would pass to them after the death of Lord Thomas Stanley. During his lifetime they were to have an annuity of 400 marks drawn from the revenues of the lordships of Newport, Brecknock and Hay. These manors were ones which had been confiscated from Margaret Beaufort and given to her husband, Lord Stanley.
  • The marriage took place before May 1484 when a grant of the proceeds of various manors in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset was made to ‘William Erle of Huntingdon and Kateryn his wif’. On 8 March 1485 a further grant was made to the Earl and Katherine his wife of an annuity of £152 10.10 from the issues of the King’s possessions in the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan, and from those of the King’s lordship of Haverfordwest.
  • Nothing more is known about Katherine. There is no record of any children from the marriage and it is thought that she may have died young as at the coronation of Elizabeth of York, Earl Huntingdon is described as a widower.

In my novel By Loyalty Bound I suggest a new name for the mother of Richard’s BLB book jacket jpegillegitimate children: Anne Harrington.  Although this is also based on speculation as the other names are, there is some circumstantial evidence that she may have been his mistress. 

Firstly, she was in the right place at the right time.  Anne’s grandfather and father, Thomas and John Harrington, were killed at the Battle of Wakefield, fighting alongside Richard’s father, the Duke of York, who also lost his life.  Because Thomas died first and his son John died later (possibly the following day) from his injuries, the Harrington lands, which included Hornby Castle in Lancashire, passed from John to his two young daughters excluding John’s brothers James and Robert Harrington. The wardships of Anne and Elizabeth Harrington were given by the king, Edward IV, to Lord Thomas Stanley who then had the right to marry them to husbands of his choosing – men who would become owners of the Harrington lands.  Considering this to be unfair, James Harrington took possession of his nieces and fortified Hornby Castle against the Stanleys who tried to take it by force by bringing a cannon named the Mile End from Bristol to blast the fortifications.   But it seems that the Harringtons had the support of the king’s youngest brother.  A warrant issued by Richard, Duke of Gloucester on the 26th March 1470 was signed ‘at

Hornby Castle today is a newer building than the one Anne and Richard would have known.
Hornby Castle today is a newer building than the one Anne and Richard would have known.

Hornby’.  This evidence places seventeen year old Richard and fifteen year old Anne together in a castle that was under siege. Is it possible that these two young people were attracted to one another?

Secondly, Richard’s illegitimate son was named John – which was the name of Anne’s father.  His daughter was named Katherine.  This name does occur in the Harrington family. It is also worth noting that in the church of St Wilfrid at Melling near Hornby, there was a chapel that was originally dedicated to St Katherine.  But perhaps more telling, there was a chantry chapel in the medieval church of St George at Doncaster founded by John Harrington (Anne’s great uncle) and his wife Isabel where they were buried. It was dedicated to St Katherine and there were stained glass windows depicting members of the Harrington family and asking for prayers for their souls.  Is it possible that Anne named her daughter after a favourite family saint?

Thirdly, John of Gloucester was probably born at Pontefract Castle, which is very close to the Yorkshire lands of the Harrington family at Brierley.

James and Robert Harrington were both in the service of the Duke of Gloucester and were with Richard at Bosworth.  If Richard had been successful he was planning to re-open the debate about Hornby with a view to returning it to the Harringtons. Given the close connections between Richard and the Harrington family it is not impossible that Anne may also have had a close relationship with him.

There is no evidence, but neither is there evidence for the other names suggested. If it were true it would add an extra dimension to the enmity between Richard and Lord Thomas Stanley who was instrumental in his defeat and death at Bosworth – and may also account for why the name of Richard’s mistress has been lost to history. 

A Brief History of Hornby Castle in Lancashire

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My latest novel By Loyalty Bound begins at Hornby Castle in Lancashire in 1470. At that time it belonged to the Harrington family.  But who originally built it? And what happened to it after the Tudors became the kings of England?

Hornby lies at the crossing of the River Wenning on the road between Lancaster and Kirby Lonsdale.
Hornby lies at the crossing of the River Wenning on the road between Lancaster and Kirby Lonsdale.

In William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book, Hornby is recorded as one of three manors – Melling, Hornby and Wennington– belonging to Ulf.  By 1086 the land was in the possession of the king and he granted it to the Montbegon family who built a castle here, and founded a priory and a borough. The castle was passed down through the Montbegon family until 1226 when Roger de Montbegon III died without issue. The heir was Henry de Monewdon and in 1229 he granted the manor of Hornby to Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, and Margaret his wife.  The agreement included 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.

Hubert de Burgh was followed by a son and grandson both named John. The grandson died in May 1243, leaving three daughters. The castle then passed into the Lungvillier family probably by marriage and in 1279 passed to the Nevills by the marriage of Margaret de Lungvillier to Geoffrey de Nevill, who was related to the Nevills of Raby.  The last of the Nevills of Hornby, Sir Robert Nevill, had a grand-daughter Margaret who married Thomas de Beaufort, 1st Duke of Exeter, who was the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford. They had a son named Henry, but he died as a child and after the deaths of both Margaret and Thomas, Hornby Castle passed to her aunt, sister of Sir Robert Neville and also called Margaret, who was married to Sir William Harrington.  Sir William Harrington was a standard bearer at the battle of Agincourt. It was his son, Sir Thomas Harrington and grandson, John Harrington, who both died at Wakefield in 1460, causing the lands to be inherited by John’s young daughters Anne and Elizabeth.

The manor of Hornby passed to Anne Harrington and it was by her marriage to Edward Stanley, a son of Lord Thomas Stanley, first Earl of Derby, that Hornby Castle came into the possession of the Stanley family. This inheritance was questionable because of various forfeitures of lands after the battle of Bosworth, and Henry VII confirmed the grant of Hornby to Edward Stanley who later excelled in battle at Flodden Field and was made Lord Monteagle. Anne Harrington died without giving Edward any children and although her sister Elizabeth, her niece Jane, and other members of the Harrington family tried to claim back the inheritance it passed to Thomas Stanley, a son of Edward by his second wife, Elizabeth Vaughan.

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As well as the chancel at St Margaret’s church, Edward Stanley had the octagonal tower built.

His son Thomas was only ten years old at the time and his wardship was granted to Sir Thomas Darcy, Sir John Hussey and Alexander Radcliffe.  Thomas died at Hornby in 1560 and asked to be buried in the church at Melling.  He was succeeded by a son, William.  William mortgaged and sold off portions of the estate and by his death the holdings were diminished. By his wife, Anne, a daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, he had a daughter, Elizabeth.  She married Edward Parker, Lord Morley, and their son, William, was summoned to Parliament in 1604 as Lord Monteagle.  He was the man who sent the warning letter to King James that prevented the success of the Gunpowder Plot.

William’s son, Henry, was a Roman Catholic and in 1625 Hornby Castle was searched for arms and a seizure was made. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Henry declared for the Royalists and Hornby Castle became a refuge for many of the Royalist ladies of the area.  But in June 1643, Colonel Assheton, with the help of a deserter from the castle, succeeded where the Stanleys had failed in the 1470s and the castle was taken when men were led in through a window after climbing the precipice. The castle was ordered to be ‘defaced, dismantled and rendered defenceless’.

Following the Civil War the castle was abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.  It was later recovered by the family but Henry’s son Thomas was forced by his financial circumstances to sell it to Robert Brudenell, 2nd Earl of Cardigan in 1663. His grandson sold it to Colonel Francis Charteris, who partly rebuilt it. In 1730, Charteris was convicted of the rape of one of his servants, Anne Bond. It should have carried the death penalty but he got away with a short stay in Newgate Gaol before receiving a royal pardon. When he died two years later, a mob tried to attack his coffin as his body was taken for burial in Edinburgh Greyfriars, and dead cats were thrown into his grave.

Charteris’ daughter, Janet married James Wemyss, 5th Earl of Wemyss and the castle passed to their second son Francis, who took his mother’s maiden name of Charteris.  In 1789 he sold Hornby Castle to John Marsden of Wennington. He was known locally as ‘Silly’ Marsden and was incapable of conducting his affairs.  He lived with his brother Henry and his aunt, Sarah Cookson, who fell under the influence of George Wright, who was a servant of Henry.  He was about 30 years younger than her, but seems to have shared her bed as well as her money. After Henry’s death, Sarah became John’s guardian and George Wright became head of the household. When John Marsden died, his will put George Wright in control of his manor. It was contested by Admiral Sandford Tatham, an uncle by marriage, and the case of Tatham v. Wright was discussed at dinner parties nationwide and followed in detail by The Times. Eventually, the courts found in favour of Admiral Tatham and Hornby Castle passed to him.  When he died at Hornby in 1840, aged eighty-five, the castle passed to his relative, Pudsey Dawson, whose nephew sold it to John Foster, a mill owner from Bradford. There is a story that Foster bought the estate whilst dressed in working clothes and paid the deposit with cash from his cloth cap.

Hornby Castle is a private house although the gardens are occasionally open to the public.
Hornby Castle is a private house although the gardens are occasionally open to the public.

Hornby Castle is now privately owned by Foster’s descendants.  It is not open to the public, but the gardens are open for a couple of weekends each year.  The house was mostly rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries in a Gothic style by Lancaster architects Sharpe and Paley with further alterations by Paley and Austin in 1889-91. It is constructed from sandstone rubble with slate roofs and is on an irregular plan, with a broad entrance front behind which lies the hall, and a tapered courtyard behind containing the keep which dates back to the 16th century and was built by Edward Stanley.  It has undergone restoration and all the windows, except for three small ones at the back are new. But a carved panel bearing the Stanley emblem of an eagle’s claw and Edward Stanley’s motto ‘Glav et gant’ (sword and glove) remain, as well as a carved eagle’s claw in one of the upper rooms.

Melling and Melling

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

The tower of St Wilfrid at Melling.
The tower of St Wilfrid at Melling.

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 Mellingdwellings. 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.

George, Duke of Clarence

On this day, 18th February 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, younger brother of King Edward IV and older brother of Richard III, was executed for treason.  Rumour persists that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. 

George, Duke of Clarence

George was the fourth son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville.  He was born in Dublin in 1449, during the time that his father was lieutenant there.

After Richard, Duke of York, was killed at Wakefield in 1460, along with his second son Edmund, it was his eldest son, Edward, who managed to take the throne in 1461.  This made George, as the next surviving brother, the heir to the throne.  He was knighted and created a duke, taking the title of Clarence as a reminder of the hereditary claim of the house of York to the throne of England.

George wanted to marry Isabel Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, but King Edward objected, probably hoping to arrange a marriage for his brother that was diplomatically advantageous to himself. However, George went ahead and married Isabel anyway with the encouragement of her father who fomented a rebellion against the king and promised George that he could take the crown in his place.  But the plot failed and the rebels were forced to flee abroad.  Warwick allied himself with Queen Margaret of Anjou, the wife of the deposed king Henry VI who was locked up in the Tower of London.  Their invasion was successful and Henry was put back on the throne.  However, this left George without the promised crown and he decided that his best option was to make peace with his brother Edward.  George fought for the Yorkists at the battles of Barnet and Tewksbury and helped his brother to be restored as King Edward IV.  But now Edward had a son of his own and George was no longer next in line to the throne.

Arguments followed about the inheritance of the Neville lands, especially when his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, expressed a wish to marry Anne Neville, the sister of George’s wife Isabel.  George hid Anne, who was the widow of the defeated Prince of Wales, from Richard and the rows that the brothers had at court concerning their shares of the Neville inheritance became so volatile that in a letter to his wife John Paston remarked that men were threatening to wear their harness (armour) to court.  He also writes in a letter to John Paston III ‘Yesterday the King, the Queen and my lords of Clarence and Gloucester went to the pardon at Sheen; men say they were not all in charity with one another. What will befall men cannot say. The king entreats my Lord of Clarence for my Lord of Gloucester; and, it is said, he answers that he (Gloucester) may have my Lady, his sister-in-law, but they will part with no livelode, as he says; so what will fall I cannot say…’

Eventually Richard did marry Anne and the Neville lands were shared between the brothers.  George was appointed chamberlain of England and councillor of Edward, Prince of Wales, who had supplanted him as heir.  He attended the council, parliament and state ceremonies and headed one of the largest retinues on Edward’s invasion of France in 1475.

He and Isabel had four children, two of whom lived. But when Isabel died shortly after giving birth to their last child, who also died, George accused her attendant, Ankarette Twynho, of poisoning her.  He had the woman brought to him from her home in Dorset to his castle at Warwick, conducted a ‘trial’, found her guilty and had her hanged.

Following this, his relationship with the king deteriorated for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the main one was that when George asked to marry Mary, the daughter of the late Charles, Duke of Burgundy, Edward refused.  Perhaps he feared that such an alliance would give George too much power.  In response, George complained in private about his brother and became so hostile that the only contact between them was by angry notes sent via messengers.

When George’s retainer Thomas Burdet and two astrologers supposedly cast the king’s horoscope they were convicted of treason and executed.  George questioned the justice of this and consequently found himself in court accused over the Twynho affair, of railing against the king and of claiming to be the Lancastrian heir.  He was allowed no defence and was sentenced to death for treason.

Some historians blame the king’s wider family, the relatives of his queen, for plotting against Clarence.  Others question the motives of his younger brother Richard who would never have become king had George lived.  But Richard probably had no thought of ever becoming king at this point in time and other sources claim that he pleaded for his brother’s life.

George, Duke of Clarence, was executed privately in the Tower of London. There are no recorded details of his death but a story was told at the time that he had been drowned in malmsey. 

A body, with the head intact, was later exhumed from the Tower of London and taken to lie with the remains of his wife, Isabel, at Tewkesbury Abbey.  It would be interesting to see if any DNA could be extracted from those bones and compared with the DNA recently taken from the newly discovered remains of his younger brother Richard.  If there was a match it would rule out a beheading, although it would not prove the truth of the story of the malmsey wine.

Further Reading: M.A. Hicks, False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence: George Duke of Clarence 1449-78 (Gloucester, 1980)

 *If you’re interested in stories about the Wars of the Roses, don’t miss my new novel: By Loyalty Bound – the story of the mistress of Richard III